Monday, August 30, 2010

miscellany monday

Miscellany Monday @ lowercase letters

Happy Monday morning, everyone!
I'll head straight to my miscellany Monday.

(one) My baby is one year old! I can't believe that the first year has gone so quickly!
Hug your babies while they are still babies!

(two) We are very selective about television viewing for Stinkerbaby, but Batman and I are both quite happy that one of her favorite DVD's is Schoolhouse Rock. It's even nice for the grown-ups in the room! And, boy, does it bring back memories!

(three) Now for my restau-RANT: Why do most restaurants assume that you are at the restaurant to ignore the people you are dining with and that the sole purpose of being there is to watch television? I recently went to a new place in town and it was so loud conversation was difficult. There were four televisions on withing my viewing. Why?! This wasn't a sports bar. That I understand. For those of us attempting to prevent our babies from watching any television before two, it's especially tough! I won't be back to that particular restaurant, but most of the sit-down places locally have not simply a television at the bar,
but 3-5 throughout the place!
Don't these people have T.V.'s at home? I thought the purpose of restaurants was to enjoy the company of friends and family and have some good food. The food wasn't even that great.
I very much appreciated being taken out to the aforementioned food establishment, but I suppose this is just further proof that I am not mainstream!

(four) This past month, I rediscovered my love of budgeting. Before kids, we always used a budget. Since kids, that has not been as regular. And when we did budget, we didn't do it honestly, some things "didn't count." Last month, we budgeted for real. It was so nice telling all our money where to go and watching it behave! Budgeting really makes me feel wealthy, when really we are financially in about the same boat as most families with small kids and a stay-at-home mom.

(five) I have discovered the best yellow cake recipe. Ever. Seriously. How could it not be good with two sticks of butter and eight egg yolks?
David's Yellow Cake
I even made it with half whole wheat flour, and it's still light and yummy!

(six) Time for more coffee. Stock up; the price of coffee is climbing.

Have a great week, and don't forget to check out lowercase letters and link up your own random Monday thoughts!


Friday, August 27, 2010

Macro Friday

Well, it's been a busy, but good week here in Shakerag. I have started borrowing my mom's camera when she comes to visit. It's another Canon point and shoot, like mine, but much nicer. It's a Power Shot A1100IS. So, I've taken a lot of pictures this week- some with my camera, some with Mom's. (Thanks, Mom!) Choosing an entry for this week's Macro Friday has been challenging because there are a lot from which to choose.

I finally decided on this photo of a Praying Mantis in my strawberry bed.

One evening, while watering my strawberries, apparently I watered the Praying Mantis, too. He or she was rather large, perhaps six inches.

It was a good evening for finding things. After the strawberries, I gave my roses a drink. Then I saw it. There was something large crawling around under the rosebush. Not only was it scary looking, after some internet research, I determined that it is actually venomous! This is a caterpillar of an Io Moth. Needless to say, I did not touch it.

If you look very closely, you can see black on the tips of some of his bristles. That's one of the features used to identify this as the Io Moth Caterpillar.

Watering the following morning also brought out some critters. "My" fence lizard was there. I thought he looked larger than I remembered. Then I noticed the evidence of his last molt. It's nice to be right, at least occasionally.

Look closely on his tail near his body. See? Okay click on the photo, then look. Looks like a spot is scalier than the rest of the fence lizard.

Then I noticed a Walking Stick. I don't see these or Praying Mantises very often.
It was pretty neat seeing the two so near each other both in time and place.

Then I noticed a bit of blue in my big bucket 'o sawdust.

It's a Five-lined Skink. We always called the Blue-tailed Skinks.
I love the electric blue of the tail!

Gosh, I didn't even mention all the butterflies I saw this week!
Well, that's a post for another day.

Thanks to Laura from
blogging from bolivia
for for hosting such a cool blog hop!
Hop on over to link up to your own Macro Friday post.

Hope you enjoyed your visit to virtual Shakerag!


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Coconutty Coffee Cake

I figured it was about time to blog about a recipe again. I cook all the time, but mostly, I don't use recipes. Cooking free-style is convenient except if I want to duplicate something we liked or if I want to tell someone else how I made something. I'm told that my great-grandmother was the same way. In trying to rid my husband of his donuts-for-breakfast fixation, I have been trying many different coffee cake and muffin recipes. It's difficult to find many that are totally devoid of fruits and nuts. This started out as a muffin recipe, but has been adapted to a 9x13 inch pan because I'm too lazy to mess with muffin papers. We've all enjoyed this recipe, even the picky toddler. While technically not a dessert, it's got a lot of sugar and certainly isn't health food. But it does have a goodly amount of good fat and whole grains and some eggs, so it is tremendously better that a boughten dough nut.

Coconutty Coffee Cake
2/3 cup virgin coconut oil (preferably in it's liquid state)
1 cup sugar- I use about half sucanat and half evaporated cane juice
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups fresh ground wheat flour (I usually sub 1/4 cup of the flour with coconut flour)
1 TBSP aluminum free baking powder
1 tsp unrefined sea salt
1/2 to 1 TBSP ginger powder
1 cup whole milk, preferably organic
1 tsp vanilla extract

4 TBSP room temperature butter, preferably organic
1/2 cup sucanat or brown sugar
2- 2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
pecans and shredded coconut are optional

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Blend flour(s), baking powder, salt, and ginger in a medium sized bowl. Cream the coconut oil, sugar, and eggs. Add flour and milk to oil mixture a little at a time. Add vanilla. This will be a thick batter. Spoon out into a greased 9x13" pan. In a small cup mix the additional sucanat or brown sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle this over batter. Cut butter into small pieces and dot batter liberally. Add more or less butter to suit your tastes. Add shredded coconut and/or pecans. Or not, if cooking for my husband.

Bake for 30-35 minutes and try to let it cool enough before you eat it that you don't burn your tongue!

Now, a word about some of the ingredients.
I love Tropical Traditions virgin coconut oil. It's very tasty and is truly a health-promoting food. There are quite a few good unrefined (virgin) coconut oils out there, but I really do like Tropical Traditions best. To get a free copy of the book, Virgin Coconut Oil, How it has changed people's lives, and how it can change yours with your first order from Tropical Traditions, tell them I referred you. My referral code is 5967402. The book has a lot of information on uses of coconut oil as well as some of the facts about saturated fats that health magazines never mention. They have a lot of great coconut products. I especially like the oils- refined and unrefined and the coconut cream concentrate. I'm just starting to experiment with coconut flour. It smells divine!
Besides the products, the other thing I really like about Tropical Traditions is the specials they have. Every now and again they have free shipping for any sized order and free products with a small purchase. Sometimes the virgin coconut oil goes on sale buy one get one free.They will send new customers the free book I mentioned by using my referral code and I'll get free items when the new customers order. It's really a win-win situation. Their customer service is also great. I received a package that the carrier damaged. They pack stuff well and was in no way Tropical Traditions' fault. I contacted them to let them know and they gave me a substantial coupon for my next purchase! I didn't ask for that, they just took care of me for my trouble! Anyway, I am not being paid by Tropical Traditions for this, I just am not often this impressed with a company, so I thought I'd tell y'all.

I get my eggs from my friendly, neighborhood egg lady. They are ridiculously cheap ($1.50/ dozen) and have delicious, orange yolks. Miss Lucille loves "her girls" and really takes good care of them. No salmonella scare for us.

I use and love Prairie Gold wheat. You can buy it from Wheat Montana, but for my area, it's much cheaper from the local Mennonite bulk foods store. I also love my Nutrimill grain mill.

I make my own vanilla extract. It's much better tasting than store-bought, if I do say so myself. I'll tell you all about that another time. Any real vanilla extract is an improvement over the imitation vanilla that is in most foods.

I only use aluminum-free baking powder. There are probably aluminum-free varieties at the grocery store, but I get mine cheaply from the aforementioned Mennonite food store.

Mountain Rose Herbs is another company I want to tell you about. They have good quality coconut oil, too. And depending on where in the country you live, they may be a good deal cheaper than Tropical Traditions, depending on shipping. But what I like best about Mountain Rose Herbs, is the inexpensive, super-high quality spices! I'm not a fan of cinnamon, as a rule, but MRH has THE BEST organic ground cinnamon I have ever tasted! Their garlic powder is superb. The powdered cacao nibs is a really delicious substitute for good ol' Hershey's cocoa powder. My only complaint is that they are on the west coast and shipping can be brutal. I wonder if they'd like to move their base of operations to Louisville? Probably not. But they are a good place to know just the same.

Well, I'm going to go have another piece of that yummy coffee cake. I'll have mine with coconut and pecans. I may just have to make coffee to go with it. . .

If any of you try this recipe, please let me know what you think.


Monday, August 23, 2010

miscellany monday

I'm feeling quite random this morning, so I thought I'd play along.

(1) I need to do better about eating breakfast in a timely manner. I wake up hungry, but the kids get up when I do, so it's difficult to feed myself. A brilliant friend of mine recently told me that if it's five hours after you wake up, it's not really breakfast. Thanks, Gini!

(2) I'm dying to do some sewing. There are many projects I'm anxious to start. Another quilt, a skirt for me, a dress for my niece, another mei tai baby carrier or two. . . Maybe today is the day!

(3) The start of the week always gets me excited about the possibilities. I know most people moan about Monday's, but I don't usually. I'm a SAHM, and I love my job!

(4) The hummingbirds have been reckless and abundant around here lately. If I can ever get a decent picture of them, I'll post it.

(5) Typing is significantly more complicated with a baby in your lap "helping."
I know I'm not alone in this observation.

(6) In a town the size of mine, it's always wise to assume when going to Walmart that you will, in fact, run into about half a dozen people that you both know and haven't seen in 8-25 years. It happens. Often. Ask me how I know. Maybe next time, I'll clean up a bit after housecleaning before Wal-marting.

Miscellany Monday @ lowercase letters

Have a great week, and don't forget to check out lowercase letters and link up your own random Monday thoughts!


Friday, August 20, 2010

Macro Friday

I can't believe that another week has gone by and I haven't posted since last Friday. Without many chances to get out with my camera, it was tough to choose an entry for this week's Macro Friday.

This is a very small Eastern Fence Lizard. This particular lizard appears to be under four inches which is on the small side. These little guys are hard to catch still!
I feel like I could have gotten a much better picture of him, if I'd been able to spend a bit more time stalking him, but this is what I have now.

Yesterday, I also saw the neatest little butterflies. They seem to be hairstreaks. I'm not sure what varieties though. Apparently, there are numerous species and subspecies. The light was fading, which didn't improve the pictures, unfortunately.

Have a great weekend and don't forget to check out
blogging from bolivia
for more interesting entries!


Friday, August 13, 2010

Macro Friday

It seems all my photography lately has been in macro mode. I guess because I'm near sighted, looking at things very closely is just natural to me.

The first photo below is my entry for
blogging from bolivia's Macro Friday.
The rest are just for fun. Hope you enjoy!

This Eastern Pondhawk was really posing for me.

Above is a Common Buckeye Butterfly.

Here is another Buckeye with a Black-and-yellow Garden Spider. I know I posted a similar photo in B&W, but I like this one better.

This is an action shot, the ant was really moving!

What could be better than a Black-eyed Susan and a discarded Cicada skin?

Above and below is the lovely Hyancinth Bean Vine.

Stinkerbaby up close and personal.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Guest Post- Summer Rain

Today, I'd like to introduce you to my friend, Country Mouse.
Right now, Shakerag is enjoying one of the first rains in quite a while,
so this post seemed especially appropriate.

I wrote this just after a wonderful summer rainstorm a few years ago.

Standing on parched grass, I watch gathering thunderheads to the southwest, white cotton turning to towering slate in fantasy shapes. The air a pregnant stillness. The only birds visible are the darting hummingbirds. One female visits every blossom, ignoring the many feeders. She appears to be trying on hats for a garden party, disappearing into the lilies, mandevillas, and ruffled red petunias. Abruptly the wind arrives, sending the hummers scattering for cover. Not a gentle breeze, but a blast from an open freezer, deliciously cool, but eye-stinging with gathered dust. The corn and sunflowers flatten themselves before its fury. The trees bow in supplication, trying to touch the earth. Then the rain. Surprisingly soft, like a benediction. I am intoxicated by the smell of scorched rocks and earth quenched and cooling. Rain streams down my face like tears of joy as I run for the house.

-Country Mouse

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Black and White Wednesday

A busy week in Shakerag, but I do have time to post another black and white photo.

To join the fun, visit The Long Road to China now by clicking the logo below.

the long road

Hope y'all are all having a great week!


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Baby Quilt

Well, I'm finally posting about the baby quilt I made in May.
Yeah, I know. I'm a bit behind. Better late than never, right?

I do not pretend to be an expert sewer (um, eww, how about sewing hobbiest?), and I certainly don't pretend to be an expert quilter,
but I'm really happy with how the quilt turned out. This quilt is not perfect, but is was made with a lot of love. I thought of that sweet baby with every stitch
and every seam ripped and re-sewed ;-)

I just love the carrot fabric. I don't even know why- orange is not one of my favorite colors. But I was smitten with that fabric as soon as I saw it. I came across eleven yards of this fabric at my favorite thrift store. No, that is not a typo.
I bought eleven yards. The quilt is backed with carrots, too.
The green swirly fabric came from a dress I bought that didn't fit.
Thrifting and repurposing are two of my favorite things.

Vintage sewing machines are another one of my favorite things.
This was sewn on two of my vintage machines. It was pieced on my Atlas Deluxe.

Yes, I did have it threaded properly to sew, just not to photograph.

I quilted it on my 1973 model Kenmore that was given to me by my mother-in-law.

The pattern is a very simple diagonal which is great for
my short periods of time when I can sew.
Anything more complicated and it might take years for me to finish!

My favorite machines were made in the 1950's in beautiful colors.
I also have a nice old treadle that I enjoy using.

Anyone else out there have an obsession, I mean um, fondness, for vintage sewing machines?

Hope you all are having a nice weekend!


Friday, August 6, 2010

Macro Friday

Well, here we are again at the end of another week. I don't know what excitement the weekend holds for us, but I'm looking forward to it. Any day with Batman home is a good day! Speaking of Batman, here is my entry for Macro Friday:

Looks a bit like the more famous Batman to me. Anyone know what it is?

Here's another view.

And here's a big hint.

And another hint.

Many thanks to Laura from Blogging from Bolivia for getting all of our collective creative juices flowing!

Have a great weekend, everyone!


Okay, here's the answer to my little question above:
It's a chrysalis (cocoon) of a black swallow-tail butterfly and caterpillars of the same. They love to eat dill and my friend with the pool had about 40 caterpillars on her dill. They killed her dill, but she and her granddaughter have enjoyed watching the butterfly action!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

First Try at Black and White Wednesday

Color is what usually draws me to a photograph. Although I can appreciate good black and white photography, suffice it to say that it is not my thing. But since I have been trying new things lately, I thought I'd give it a try.
So, here are some attempts.

As anyone who knows me is aware, not only do I like insects, I like many arachnids, not including ticks and turkey mites. I thought this web was especially nice. I think it's a web of a Black-and-green Garden Spider.

This is a Black Swallowtail Butterfly pupa.
These awesome little caterpillars are devouring my friend's dill much to her granddaughter's delight.

This is an Easter Pondhawk who is a beautiful bottle green in real life.

Well, it's too hot to do anything today. I think I'll go turn the A/C down colder. Go check out The Long Road to China.
At least you can do that from the cool comfort of home.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Random summer thoughts

There are many ideas for blog posts flitting around in my head like so many dragonflies. I doubt I'll have time to post them very soon.
So, how does a random post suit you?

The weather has been terribly hot here lately. I know many people in many places have hotter weather, but a forecast of 99 degrees with 80%+ humidity is plenty hot for me. Summer is my favorite season, but this is too hot to be any fun.

Unless you're swimming. Which is what we are doing later on this morning. The aforementioned, ever-generous friend has offered again to have the whole gang over to swim. I plan on being back indoors by 11:00 a.m. when the day really starts to heat up!

My baby is going to be one year old this month! I'm in shock! I know, I know, you've all heard how fast the first year flies. BELIEVE IT!

Also in the time-flies category, I can't believe that school is starting again already! Since I don't have any school-aged kids, this really surprised me. Weren't summer vacations pretty long when you were in school? The idea of back to school clothes in 100 degree heat is especially unappealing.

One positive of school starting is that I can now hear the high school band practicing when the wind is right. Mostly, I can just hear the quads, but it still gives me a warm fuzzy to hear them. I think I'm going to take my daughter to our local invitational this year. Anyone know of good hearing protection for three year olds? She loves music and hates loud things!

Does anyone else out there have great memories from being in marching band? Easily, all of my best high school memories involve band or band trips. I may have to break out my saxophone later today, I'm getting so nostalgic. Maybe I won't since the last time I played for Stinkerbaby, she cried.

Well, it's time to start getting the swimming gear together and to have another cup of coffee.

Please post any band memories you care to share.

I'll go first, it was so hot for band camp my freshman year, the tread melted off my tennis shoes from standing on the pavement.
No, I'm not exaggerating.
Good times.