My favorite Halloween Decor

 

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I LOVE Halloween!  I also LOVE children’s artwork!  So my favorite Halloween decor is created by my kids.  Although mixed in with their creations are, a pumpkin my husband made in elementary school and a ghost I made in kindergarten.  Framing was super cheap. All the frames are from Ikea, Goodwill or the Dollar store. I just spray painted them black or white to hide their less than stellar appearance.

 

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My other favorite Halloween art comes from my Father in law and my Father.  My father-in-law Ken carved this awesome pumpkin and stand from one log. You can’t tell but the eyes are and the mouth are carefully carved out. I love the quirkiness of this and had hoped to talk him into carving more for us but unfortunately he passed away. I think of him every time I see this!

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My father Gordon collected antique paper jack-o-lanterns (before the days of Ebay).  He was very picky about their faces and condition and had 13 for our mantle.  My mom, sitter I have split up his pumpkins so I only have four of them.  I have been watching Ebay to add to his collection, but so far I can’t justify the purchase. These remind me of my dad.

 

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I also LOVE pumpkins! Not eating them but I love their color.  I used to feel guilty spending lots of money on gourds that would be thrown away in a short time… now I just view them as future chicken feed.

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~Chanel

 


Food IS Love!

I clearly remember one day, months after my father had passed away, eating a spaghetti dinner with sauce that he had made and frozen.  Eating that spaghetti sauce was like he was right there with us.  One way our family members live on is through the family recipes that they pass down to us.  This is certainly the case with my Grandma Larson’s apple pie.

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Grandma Larson was one of my most favorite people in the whole world. I learned to make Grandma Larson’s apple pie because I loved Grandma Larson.  I loved being with her.  People loved her apple pie and she always got a lot of attention when she made it.  Cooking yummy treats was a big part of who Grandma Larson was (I still miss her cookies), I wanted to learn from her, so she taught me.  Not only did she teach me how to make apple pie…she taught me how to can the pie filling.  Today, we have two apple trees planted in our yard, so that I can home can apple pie filling and make grandma’s apple pie.  Fall is the perfect time to open that canned pie filling and whip up a quick pie.

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It was years before I learned how to make a decent pie crust.  Being the oldest grandchild, I inherited my grandmother’s very beloved rolling pin.  Grandma’s father carved it for her out of a piece of wood.  I felt a little unworthy not really making my own pie crust. For years I bought the frozen kind, until I found the foolproof recipe from Jan Larsen (no relation).  Here’s the super EASY recipe…

4 cups flour

1 3/4 cups Crisco

1 Tablespoon sugar

1 Tablespoon apple vinegar

1 large egg

1/2 ice water

Blend the last 3 ingredients with a fork and then add them to the rest.  Mix all together using a mixer.  Refrigerate before using.  Can be kept in the refrigerator or freezer.

Apple Pie Filling for Home Canning

6 qts blanched sliced apples

5 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups Clear Jel A or modified corn starch

1 tablespoon cinnamon

2 1/2 cups cold water

5 cups apple juice

3/4 cup bottled lemon juice

1 teaspoon nutmeg

7 drops yellow food coloring

Peel and slice apples and put them in a bowl containing ascorbic.  Blanch 2 quarts at a time–1 minute in boiling water.  Hold in covered container until ready to use.  Combine sugar, Clear Jel A & cinnamon in large kettle with water, apple juice, food coloring and nutmeg.  Stir and cook on med-high heat until mixture thickens and begins to bubble.  Drain apple slices.  Add lemon juice and boil 1 minute.  Stirring constantly, fold in apple slices and immediately fill jars with mixture without delay.  Process 30 min in home canner.  Makes 7 quarts.

There are 2 things that make grandma’s pie extra good.  The first is the crumbled topping.  For the topping, you mix together with a fork or pastry cutter:  1 cup flour, 1/2 brown sugar and 1/2 softened, but not too soft butter.  Mix until evenly combined and crumbly.

The second thing and grandma’s little trick is that she baked her pies in a brown grocery bag.  This is a bit dangerous (you don’t want a fire), but if done properly, it keeps the top and the crust from overly browning.  You need to make sure that the brown paper bag is not touching the heating element or any of the oven walls.  Watch for smoke!   The pie bakes at 400 degrees for 50 minutes.

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Of course, it wouldn’t be apple pie without vanilla ice cream.

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Every time I use grandma’s rolling pin and every time I make or eat her apple pie, I think I have just a little piece of grandma still here with me.  What will be my food is love legacy?  Ali asked if one day I could please teach her how to make macaroni and cheese.  I was thinking…yea, I make a really good homemade mac & cheese.  Then she said…I just don’t know if I put the powder or the milk in first.   Yikes!!!  Maybe my food legacy will be Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.  You know there are some tricks to making that too.

Love, Tiffany


Backyard chickens the easy way

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When people hear we have chickens they often say “I would love to have chickens, but they are so much work.” Honestly, I think a dog is more work than the chickens. You have to train dogs, they chew furniture and you have to clean up their poop.  Don’t  get me wrong I LOVE our dogs, but they are way more work than our 50+ chickens.  Although we still have to occasionally clean the coop by hand, here are a couple of things we discovered that make chickens easier than ever!

To keep chickens safe from predators they need to have a secure place to roost at night.  For years, I would go out at sunrise to let the girls out.  This required donning a cute bathrobe and muck boots and walking out in the cool morning.  Then at dusk, after the girls had returned to the coop, we would need walk out again and close it up.  This was a significant pain, because in the morning you can’t  sleep in and someone always had to be home around dusk, so predators didn’t get our girls.

After much research and even a few DIY ideas from my husband, we found an automatic coop door online and decided to try it.  We have two Chickenguard’s from Foy’s Pigeon Supplies (we have two coops).  You can put it on a timer if you like, but we use the adjustable light sensor.  The door opens automatically at sunrise and closes at dusk.  If you didn’t know, chickens have an innate behavior to roost every night, so they always return to the coop before dark.  The Chickenguard is a bit expensive, but well worth every penny.  In over 3 years, it has never failed.  We change the batteries once a year and that’s it. (no power needed, just batteries)

www.foyspigeonsupplies.com

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 See that little plastic dot? That’s the light sensor outside the coop

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So many chickens go through lots of water.  In the hot summer months we would have to refill the water fonts 2-3 times a day. We now have chicken nipples. Yes, Maddona had a good idea. We have metal chicken nipples and they are awesome! Hooked up to a hose bib, the system reduces the water pressure and always has fresh water available at the nipple.  I guess it is similar to the hamster water bottles with a ball, but I think the chickens like the nipples better because they are long like a worm!

There are several Youtube videos on how to make these, but after a year of trying different setups and becoming frustrated by water pressure issues, we broke down and bought one from HERE.  http://chickenfountain.com

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As for cleaning the coops, that’s super easy too… we use child labor 🙂

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~Chanel


Why we want our kids to fail

Numerous times we have watched our kids avoid situations or challenges because they thought they would not do well.  One of my daughters did two days of basketball tryouts only to skip the final mandatory day where they were announcing the team.  I had watched the practices and she played better than the majority of the girls.  It looked clear she would make the team. I was so confused.  After a lot of discussion I realized she skipped it because the chance of being told her best was not good enough would hurt more then just skipping the team all together.  This made me so sad. It also made me think about the times in my life where I have done the exact same thing.

Last Monday night we called our family together and said we needed to have a family discussion.  One of my kids said “Ya, ya, ya… we know, the house is a mess and we need to work as a team to keep it cleaner.”  I thanked her for her awareness and suggestion but explained that was not what we wanted to discuss tonight.  I said “Dad and I want to discuss how we want you kids to fail.”  They started laughing and were like “That’s funny.”  I assured them we were serious and we not only want them to fail we want them to fail often.  At this point they were all quiet and looking at me like I had lost it.  The rest of the discussion went something like this…

If you are not failing you are not pushing yourself to do hard things and improving. We want you to try the things that push you out of your comfort zone.  Sometimes this will pay off and bring you happiness and sometimes your best will not be good enough.  We still love you.  We will always love you.  Our love is not contingent on your success.  We want you to try your best and never give up because of the fear of failing.  We love you even when you fail.

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 One of my friends was telling me how her son is a really good soccer player but has been on horrible teams.  For two years in a row they lost every single game.  Although as a parent she wanted to help him and get him on a different team, she decided against it.  She explained in detail how he learned and grew more in those two years of losing then he would have ever learned from wining. When his team finally won a game the victory was sweet, but he also felt compassion for the team that lost.  Even when your best is not good enough, you will always learn and grow from your losses.

Some of my best wake up calls came from papers that came back covered in red ink. I had a roommate in college whose mom was still correcting her papers and even writing some of her reports. That mother had robbed her daughter of self confidence. She couldn’t do anything without her mom’s help or approval. We have total confidence in each of you. We will not do things you can do for yourself, even if you think we can do it better.

We discussed THIS article I had read about a researcher from Stanford named Carol Dweck that has been studying what motivates kids to keep trying and not give up.  We all found it facinating.

We learn more by getting questions wrong, loosing soccer games, not making the basketball team and not getting a perfect score on a paper. So if you are afraid of failing, then you are afraid of learning.

Salmon Kahn (the developer of Kahn Academy) explains it perfectly “The brain grows most by getting questions wrong, not right.”

~Chanel


Half Moon Bay…Pumpkins!

October is a beautiful time to be in the San Francisco Bay area.  If you live in the Bay Area like I do, going to Half Moon Bay every October to buy pumpkins might be one of your favorite traditions.  Half Moon Bay is famous for their pumpkins and is the location where the largest pumpkins are weighed and one is pronounced the biggest grown this year!

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Our family has been going to Half Moon Bay every October for as long as we can remember.  There are a lot of pumpkin farms to go to, each one a bit different from the others.  Many are almost carnival like with pony rides, trains and petting zoos.  Some have darling gift stores and flower shops.  (Beautiful flowers are also grown here.)

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So…when you go to one or more of these “mega-pumpkin-patches,”  you have to be discerning about which pumpkins are worthy to come home with you and adorn your front porch.  Do you prefer big, small, curly stems?  Do you like different colors and shapes?  White?  Green?  Multi-colored?

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Decisions…decisions….decisions….there is everything you could imagine here.

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It’s always hard to choose, but somehow we make it home each year with a great collection of very fresh pumpkins that will sit and look pretty until carving time.

 And the winner??  The largest pumpkin grown this year???  That will be announced next week at the Pumpkin Festival.

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BEST pumpkins in the WORLD????  We think so!

~Tiffany


Overcoming challenges

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Although I always love a warm water tropical vacation, my husband and I just returned from one to Kauai that has changed me. This year I have really been trying to challenge myself and push myself to do hard things. Stuff that I normally would avoid or flat out reject. In May I decided to learn how to play piano. I don’t really know why, I just thought it was a good skill to have. I have no musical skills whatsoever so this has been a real challenge, like yoga for my brain. Nothing has made me feel so stupid as learning piano, but I will not give up. I am determined I will learn how to play and sight read. One of my greatest fears is heights. I feel like it’s illogical. I should be able to stand a reasonable distance from a ledge and enjoy the view, but I can’t. One night we stayed in a beautiful hotel with floor to ceiling windows and all night long I had nightmares I was falling out the window. I wish there was a way to “fix” this defect in my brain but I can’t help it It. Prior to leaving for Kauai my hunky husband mentioned he wanted to do a helicopter tour of the island. I said “oh that sounds fun for YOU”. He asked me if I thought there was any way I would do it with him. I knew there was not a chance, but I told him I would try. I ended up doing more than trying. After thinking about it I decided I was going to do it no matter what!  I may be crying, vomiting, peeing my pants but I was going on that stupid helicopter! I figured this would either fix my fear or send me to a mental hospital but I was willing to take the risk. The night before I could not sleep. The day of our scheduled flight I was in survival mode. I was physically sick and my brain sounded like a twisted Jack Handy deep thoughts pep talk… you can do this… you will not fall from the sky and explode into a million pieces… you can do this… even though the helicopter has no doors… you can do this… it just kept going. So much so Eric would talk to me and I couldn’t even answer him. We arrived at Jack Harter Helicopters and I knew I was going to die.  I took a quarter of a Zanex pill (what it normally take to get me on an airplane). We drove to the airport in their van and got our life jackets on in case we crashed in the water.  I took another quarter of a pill. The helicopter landed and was being refueled as we waited, I took another quarter. It was time to get in the Helicopter. The pilot looked like a 19 year old surfer with long wavy blonde hair and tan skin. He helped me get my headset on and introduced himself to me as Miles. Miles just kept talking to me asking me questions I needed to answer. I realize this was calculated and brilliant on his part because it distracted me. Before I knew it we were up in the sky flying. I closed my eyes and said a sincere prayer of gratitude. I’m not going to lie and say it was easy, it wasn’t. Every muscle in my body was tight and I had to remind myself to breath. But I actually really enjoyed it. It was so amazingly beautiful that I could not stop taking pictures. IMG_1670 Before I knew it an hour had passed and we were landing. I don’t know if I fixed the defective chip in my brain but I know I made huge progress. When we got off the helicopter I wanted to run up to everyone and scream “BooYah! I just flew in a helicopter”. I didn’t. Well… I didn’t say booyah. IMG_1665 I would HIGHLY recommend Jack Harter Helicopters. If you are afraid of heights ask for Miles Kennion. -Chanel