November 27, 2012

Christmas with a chicken flair!

 Now that we have chickens of course I had to do something to represent them in my holiday decorating. My first idea was to create this wreath to hang on their coop. However, I love it so much, I may just keep it hanging in the kitchen. I love to work with felt, so my little Chickens are made from felt. I also incorporated feathers from my girls into the wreath. Gotta do something with those feathers from molting, right?

November 25, 2012

Tradition: Soup, Salad, Family, and Lights!

 It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

For years we as a family and extended family would kick off the Christmas season by coming together the day after Thanksgiving for some soup, family, and Christmas lights. Our local zoo puts on "The Lights Before Christmas." The zoo decks the halls with over a million lights, decorations and holiday spirit. It is absolutely stunning and guaranteed to get any "Grinch" into the holiday spirit.
photo by BethAnne Heisman
photo by BethAnne Heisman

However, the past few years we have not went as an extended family. The reasons varied, but this year we decided to rekindle our tradition. After the big Thanksgiving meal, no one wants to eat anything big, so we do a soup and salad bar for dinner. Simple, warm and delish! This year I hosted our "holiday kick-off meal."  Since I did not cook Thanksgiving dinner,  I was up for it.
Sorry, no Thanksgiving leftover recipes! There was nothing left to use, so compliments to my mother and her great meal.

The Menu
 Joyful Girl's Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup (my friend Joy's recipe)
Apple Cashew Salad
Crusty Rolls
(Recipes below) 

This year we had a bit of a problem. The meal was ready, warm clothes on stand by, excitement in the air, when Mother Nature decided to NOT be very nice. Living in Northwest Ohio, our weather is a bit crazy. We knew it was going to be cold, but we did not expect was the wind. The temperature was in the low 30's, but with the wind chill it felt like 21 degrees. We can handle cold, but with little ones still in our family, there was no way we could make it to the zoo. I admit I was sad we did not go, but...

We still all came together for dinner. The kids just looked at our lights and those of the neighbors through the window. My 3 year old niece asked my hubby "Uncle Brian, can you get the jumpy thing out, so we can lay on it and watch movies?" (the jumpy thing is our air mattress.) The kids decided to put in Christmas movies,snuggling down together under blankets. 

So our "holiday kick off" was not what we planned, but it does not matter. What matters is coming together as a family


 Joyful Girl's Creamy Chicken and Rice soup
6 cups of chicken broth 
2 cups cooked chicken breasts, shredded
1 (4.5 oz) long grain and wild rice with seasoning, I use Uncle Ben's.
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
3/4 cup of All purpose flour
1/2 cups of Butter
2 Cups of Heavy Cream

In large pot over medium heat, combine broth and Chicken. Bring to just boiling. Stir in rice reserving seasoning packet. Cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. In a small bowl, combine Salt, Pepper and flour. In a medium sauce pan add butter. Heat over medium heat. Once butter is melted stir in the seasoning packet and cook until mixture is bubbling. Reduce heat to low and stir in flour by Tablespoons to make a roux. Gradually whisk in heavy cream into the roux a little at a time until mixture is smooth. Cook until thick about 3 to 5 minutes.  Add the cream mixture into the broth, stirring to mix. Cook over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, or until heated through. We like to top our soup with mushrooms.

Apple Cashew Salad

Romaine lettuce, cut into bite size pieces
cups chopped apple of your choice
1 1/2 cups of unsalted cashews
1-2 cups of Mozarella or Swiss cheese (I like the Swiss)
Your favorite Poppyseed dressing.

In a large salad bowl, cut your Romaine lettuce. Our you can buy a pre-washed/cut bag to use.
Cut your apples to remove the core, but leave the skin on, chop apple slices into about 1 inch size. Next add your apples, cashews, and cheese to the Romaine lettuce. Take your favorite Poppy Seed dressing and pour it over the items in the bowl, and toss to cover. Serve.

November 15, 2012

Mobile 72 hour kits

Striving to be self-reliant is a major goal for our family. I have many like minded friends. But what happens when all that you have done to prepare yourself at home is taken?  No one is exempt from Natural disasters or even fires for that matter.  I personally have not had anything like this happen to me, and I pray that it never does. But these things happen. What do you do?

My solution is to have 72 hour kits that can be taken with you. These kits should only contain the basic needs to sustain you and other family members for a three day period.  Depending on your family's individual needs, you can add items. For example, when my children were babies, we included diapers, wipes, an extra bottle, and formula.The kits should be mobile and accessible at all times. We keep them in our vehicle. Keeping them in the vehicle would also help in the case of  a roadside emergency. It is also good practice to make sure you rotate and update items within your kits to ensure that they are always ready.

What goes into a 72 hour kit?  As I stated, kits should contain basic items to get you through an emergency. Basic items are as follows:
Picture from Emergency Essentials
  • Water
  • Food
  • Warmth
  • Light
  • Communication
  • First Aid
Once you have the basics, think about the specific needs you may need to include. Sit down and make a list of items you may want to have or need.

  • Baby supplies
  • Sanitary napkins 
  • Toilet Tissue
  • Prescription medicines (this is tricky due to prescription laws, I recommend talking to your health care provider to see if it is possible to receive "extra" medicine for emergency situations.)
  • Extra socks
  • Rope
  • Garbage bags 
  • Food and water for pets
  • Copies of important documents. (If you are uncomfortable having these documents in your vehicle, like me, we gave copies of our important information to a relative for safe keeping and keep the original and a copy in a fire safe.)
Now that you have a feel for what goes into your kit, it is time to make your kits. How you do this is depending on your budget and personal preference. Many times you can find items to include in your kit at Dollar stores, Military/Camping stores and what you may have already at home. I have compiled all the items into one large hiking back pack. But now that my children are older, they can carry individual back packs with their items. 

Another option is to purchase kits already made from emergency preparedness companies. My favorite company is Emergency Essentials out of Utah. They provide a ton of products for emergency situations, food storage, and other self sustaining products.



November 8, 2012

Easy Cheesy Chicken Enchilada Casserole

We love Hispanic food! But sometimes "Tacos" get a bit boring for my family. I love to cook but the past month has been crazy! I break out my easy and quick recipes. Here is one that even my picky eaters love.

 Simple Ingredients

  • Can of Refridgerated Biscuits
  • Cooked Shredded Chicken Breast, about 1 to 2 cups, or use canned chicken breast.
  • Enchilada sauce, 1 to 2 small cans.
  • Cheese, I used a mix of Cheddar and Colby Jack, we love cheese so this tends to get really cheesy!
 Coat pan with non-stick cooking spray. Lay biscuits down in bottom of the 9x9 baking dish. Add your cooked, shredded chicken breast on top of the biscuits spreading evenly. Pour the Enchilada sauce over it all. Add shredded cheese. Bake at 350 F for about 20 minutes, or until the biscuits are done.


November 5, 2012

Family Favorite Goodie

Family functions, Holiday parties or just for a fun family night, these are one of our family's favorite goodie. Simple to make, but for sure not a "clean eating" snack. Oh, but they are so good! 'Tis the season for comfort food. Hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

Sausage Cups


Won Ton wrappers
Cheddar Cheese
Ranch Dressing
Sour cream


Preheat your oven to 250 degrees. Brown the sausage into crumbles. Drain sausage to remove excess grease. Put the sausage into a bowl and add 1 cup of Cheddar cheese, and about 1/4 cup of Ranch dressing. Mix together. Next take a mini or average cupcake pan. Spray cooking spray into the holes lightly. Fit your won ton wrappers down into the pan. Depending on if you use round or square wrappers, try to center the wrapper.  Add your sausage mixture into the won ton cup. I usually fit about a 1 1/2 Tablespoons into them. Put into the oven and bake for about 5 minutes, or until the won ton is crispy and lightly browned. Be careful and do not over bake your the won ton edges will burn. Remove from the oven. Add a dollop of sour cream to the top of the cup. Serve.

November 2, 2012

Barn Stars

Everyday I try to learn something new. My education is through someone else or by my own research. Yesterday I was talking to our wonderful group of ladies at Farm Chick Chit Chat. Like most chicken owners we are always looking for ways to "revamp" our coops. I took a pick of our coop and posted it. Another "Chick" commented on the Barn Star I have on it. She told me how she loved the it and told me that different colors represent something different.  Enough said, I made it my mission today to understand all things "Barn Star." So off I went to my favorite search engine!

First let me say that most of the facts are pretty much the same. Because I am so "Pro-Works Cited" I must tell you that my information comes from a variety of websites. I do not claim to own any of this information.  

 A Brief History:

The following information on  Barn Stars is taken from

 To follow the history of the barn star in North America, you must go back approximately 300 years when groups of religious refugees from the Rhine region of Germany migrated to south eastern Pennsylvania seeking religious freedom. These refugees included Amish and Mennonites - people of "plain" dress - and Lutherans and other Reformed groups of more worldly dress called "fancy". Over time, these people became known as "Pennsylvania Dutch".
 "Amish Metal Tin Barn Stars are well known as a sign of good luck and great fortune. We trust that barn stars are also very popular because it is an ornamental way of expressing our support and pride in our country."

"The tradition of the barn star in Amish country can be traced back to the 1700’s, and to at least the 1820’s in Pennsylvania. Barn stars were most popular after the Civil War. On many older Amish barns,one could see a large decoration in the shape of a star mounted on the face of the barn. Sometimes they were just aesthetic, but sometimes they represented the trademark of a specific barn builder. It is our understanding the original star shape was a three-pointed star but has changed throughout the years. Colors had significance with Amish and Pennsylvania Dutch barn paintings. These folk art designs, many of which were star shaped, were painted directly onto each end of the barn, and date back to the 1850’s.   The barn star composition has changed over the years. At first they were built directly into the barn. Later the stars were crafted from wood as a separate piece and now of metal for longer lasting with ease of changing the colors."

The colors and their meanings:

  • Black:
    Protection, also used to blend or bind elements together
  • Blue:
    Protection, peace, calmness and spirituality
  • Brown:
    Mother earth, also can mean friendship and strength
  • Green:
    Growth, fertility, success in things and ideas that grow
  • Orange:
    Abundance in career, projects and matters needing an added push
  • Red:
    Emotions, passion, charisma, lust and also creativity (How appropriate for me to have a red one! Red is my favorite color!)
  • Violet:
    Things that are sacred
  • White:
    Purity, power of the moon, allows energy to flow freely
  • Yellow:
    Health in body and mind, love of man and the sun, connection to the God
During my research I came across another form of Barn folk art, Barn Hexes. These also originate from the Amish.  I did not know what these were called, however, I knew what they were. My grandparents had one on the their garage when I was younger. I remember Gram saying this was to protect all who came to her home.  Barn Hexes were originally thought to be painted as talismans and for protection, since the word "Hex" translated in  German means "Witch." However today they are used for as decorative purposes. 

For the record, I am more in love with Barn Stars than I was before! Not just because of their primitive look and rich history, but from their origins. Recently, on another one of my family history adventures, I found that I am direct descendant of Bishop Jacob Mast, the second  Amish Mennonite Bishop for Berks and Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in 1786. 

Could my love for these Americana icons be more of a "blood memory" for me? I could not really say. What I can say is I gained an education today. I will be proud to display Barn Stars not only for decoration, but to honor my history.