Rain, rain, go away

April 26, 2011

You may not have heard, but it’s been raining in the midwest for the last week. We have a little extra water.

This is the White River, about 20 minutes north of our house.north of river

Actually, this is supposed to be a cornfield, just north of the White River. north of river 2

Yep, not many telephone poles in the middle of rivers.road underwater

This road goes past the cornfield/lake. Have you heard that you shouldn’t drive through high water?truck in water

This guy did. But you still shouldn’t. My little car would not have made that.

This is from south of the river. The actual river is supposed to be between the two rows of trees towards the top of the photo. south of river 2

I would have taken a better photo from the bridge, but there’s a lot of traffic. And not much room to stand. I didn’t want to get squished by a semi!!bridge traffic

This is supposed to be a soybean field, right next to our driveway. For now, our driveway is not underwater. But it won’t take much more water to get there!flooded field

John says you can tell that it is going to rain when flies cluster on the sides of buildings.flies on wall

They were clustering on the side of our house tonight.flies on wall 2

And I checked the radar. The radar said it is going to rain, too. (I don’t trust bugs. Especially for weather prediction.)weather map 04262011

This storm started around 10:00 tonight, and is supposed to keep going all night and into tomorrow!

Ready… set… rain!


Easter lamb cake

April 22, 2011

The Easter lamb cake was a tradition in my house growing up. My mom used to make it with a pound cake mix. Because I wanted to play in this month’s Iron Chef Challenge hosted by A Latte with Ott, A, I made a cake from scratch!IronChef ClabberGirl

Having never made a pound cake (or any other cake, for that matter) from scratch, I searched for a recipe. My favorite, Alton Brown, had what looked like a yummy pound cake recipe, but it didn’t use baking powder. I did manage to find a cake recipe on Allrecipes.com that was supposed to be used with this lamb cake mold! Cool! (And thanks!)

First, I assembled the ingredients, including a brand-new container of Clabber Girl baking powder.ingredients

Don’t forget your lamb cake mold! You do have one of these, don’t you? If not, look here.lamb mold

Cream together 1 cup of butter and 2 cups of sugar (I used Splenda instead of sugar).cream butter

Mix together 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

This recipe says to add 1 cup of water to the butter/sugar mixture and mix that well, then to add in the flour mixture. I tried just adding the water, and it made a mess. Really. The water didn’t combine with the butter/Splenda, and it splashed all over my counter. (Because the butter was too cold? Because it was Splenda instead of sugar? Any ideas?)

So I just added the flour mixture, and a little more water to compensate for the water that was on my counter. Then mix in 1 teaspoon vanilla.add flour

Then, beat 4 egg whites until stiff. I had never done this before, and it was much easier than I thought it would be. Hooray for hand mixers!beat egg whites

Peaks! Neat!egg white peaks

Fold the egg whites into the batter.fold in

Grease both halves of the lamb mold within an inch of your life.ungreased mold

Really. Just when you think it’s greased enough, grease it some more. I usually use butter for greasing pans, sometimes the spray stuff. For this project, I busted out the Crisco. I wanted some serious grease!greased mold

Fill your mold, but pay attention to the type of mold you have. This mold is meant to be filled on the “front” half of the lamb, and baked as a single piece. Some are meant to be baked as two halves and put together at the end.full mold

This mold has a small vent hole in the back of the lamb’s head. (That helps me to remember which side goes up – the hole goes up so the poor lamb’s brains don’t leak out in the oven!)

I put the mold, face down, on a cookie sheet and into a 350 oF preheated oven. Bake for 45-50 minutes.bake cake

Then I did a little dance because all the dishes I used to make the cake went into the new dishwasher! After I started it, I thought to double-check that my stainless steel mixing bowls are dishwasher safe. (Phew! They are!)full dishwasher

After 45 minutes in the oven, I used a toothpick through the vent hole to see if the cake was done. The toothpick came out clean, so I pulled the cake. I let it cool for a few minutes before I carefully took off the back of the mold. (I had a little accident with part of the cake. Remember what I said about grease?) I didn’t think he looked quite done enough, so I gently put the mold back on, and stuck him back in the oven for another five minutes.almost done

Five minutes later, done lamb cake! I had to use a knife to loosen the cake from the edges of the front part of the mold. I didn’t grease that part too well, I guess. Once the edges were loosened, he came right out!done

Cool completely, and then start the icing!

First, put a layer of icing on your cake base so the lamb has some help standing up. (This cake should stand on its own, but this will give a bit more stability.)  base

I used icing from a can. I thought about making my own, but decided making the cake from scratch was enough to handle this time around.

Then I had to do a little surgery to put the lamb back together again.surgery 1

Good thing I am a large animal veterinarian!surgery 2

Stand the little guy up, and go to town with the icing!standing

I started with the back to get my technique down. I didn’t want a really “smooth” look, so it sort of looked like wool.iced back

My mom used to dust the cake with coconut to give it some texture. We’re not big coconut eaters here, so I skipped that step.iced front

I did dust him with sugar (the real stuff!) for some dimension, and gave him jelly bean eyes and a nose.features

Add some grass for him to sit on, and some friends for him to hang out with.friends

Since my cats like to eat things they are not supposed to, I made sure to use the paper Easter grass, instead of the plastic stuff. Plastic stringy things are bad news for kitties. Always.

Now, if only my cake dome would fit without squishing the poor lamb’s head! Drat!dome

Happy Easter!


Also linked to Sweets for a Saturday at Sweet as Sugar Cookies.

and Seaside Simplicity‘s Easter Party.

This is why we can’t have nice things

April 16, 2011

This is the finale of “To Catch an Herb Predator.”

Remember when I said that cats don’t like oregano and cilantro?safe herbsThat’s not true.

They are equal opportunity herb-eaters.

They just hadn’t found these particular herbs yet.

Since I made that bold statement, they found them.

I woke up the other morning to a SLAM BANG CRASH!

Oh. No.

So I took a quick inventory.

Husband in the shower, no yelling. He’s probably fine.

Leo and Martin (partners in crime), were both on the bed, waiting for me to get up to feed them. Not the cause of the trouble today.guiltyparties4

Orleans (potting soil enthusiast) was sitting on a chair right outside the bedroom. This didn’t rule him out from the trouble-making, but did make it less likely.orleans4 And then I made it to the kitchen.

When I got there, there was a cat on the counter. (Have you figured out which one yet?)slam She was contentedly chomping the cilantro.bang I yelled so loud, Pretzel took off. (She’s lucky I didn’t catch her.)crash(Have I mentioned that she is my husband’s cat? As in, she was in the picture before I was? I think there is a bit of female rivalry going on here…)johns cat She broke my brand new blue strawberry pot.pieces We are not on speaking terms right now.

The fuzzy suspects

April 16, 2011

These are the suspects from the Great Herb Heist of 2011.

In no particular order…

Pretzel. 9 year old spayed female, declawed in front, approximately 7 pounds.

Pretzel may look cute and innocent, curled up in the window.miss pretzel

But don’t let her fool you. She can be a trouble maker when she wants to.Pretzel helping

She is the only other female in the house, and we do not get along. This cat will jump up on the counters right in front of me. She will wait until you are watching, and then knock stuff off the counters, just to see your reaction.

Would cute, innocent Miss Pretzel eat my herbs?

Next we have the partners in crime, Martin and Leo. These two cats hang out together a lot. Especially during the day. Maybe they spend so much time sleeping so they can cause trouble at night?guilty parties

Next is Martin, a 6 year old neutered male, declawed in front, approximately 12 pounds.

You may have met Martin before.

He even has his own Facebook page!

He’s a little grumpy, because he actually almost has an alibi.magnificent martin

You see, Martin sleeps in bed with us every night. He goes to bed when I do, and he is there in the morning when my alarm goes off. Any time I get up in the night, I need to kick him to get him off my feet.

Not to say he couldn’t sneak out and sneak back in…

Leo is the other partner, a 15 year old neutered male, declawed in front, approximately 14 pounds.lounging leo

He’s our biggest boy, but has recently lost some weight. At his peak, he clocked in around 20 pounds. (Mommy wasn’t paying attention!)

He may not look it, but he is talented enough to jump on the counters.

Most of the time I just don’t think he is that motivated.lazy leo

Although… Could he be rediscovering the energy of a younger cat, due to his fit, svelte new physique?

Last, but not least, Orleans. Orleans is a 13 year old neutered male, not declawed, approximately 13 pounds.

He certainly seems to be enjoying the potting soil… orleans 2

Why is he trying so hard to get in that bag?orleans

Is he licking his chops? Is that an admission of guilt?!?  orleans 3

Hmmm. Looks like I still have some investigating to do…

Come back tomorrow for “How to Catch an Herb Predator.”

Cats like herbs, too

April 12, 2011

And it makes me so mad!

I brought home some supplies to make an herb container garden from my visit to the Family Roots Nursery a few weeks ago. And make a container garden I did.

Now, we have four cats in the house, so the safety of house plants is always an issue. (We make sure to not bring in anything that is poisonous to the cats, so safety of the cats isn’t usually an issue. Unless I catch them chewing on the plants, that is!)

I thought I was being really smart. I put one of the containers tucked into a corner shelf above the kitchen sink…safe herbs

…and the other one went up really high.high herbs

Not high enough.chewed chives

Cats like chives and dill. They do not like rosemary, cilantro, or oregano. But those chives… yum yum!fallen chives

And the fluffy dill that was next to the chives? Not so fluffy anymore.doomed dill

But the rosemary is doing great! They don’t seem to like rosemary.rowdy rosemary

I do have another of those corner shelves. The rosemary container didn’t get put there because the rosemary was too tall to fit. But I did put a geranium there.geranium 1

(It hasn’t been safe, either, which means the shelf is not the magic factor keeping the cats from eating my plants. It’s simply taste. Darn things!)

We devised a plan. We set out upside-down mousetraps near the plants to keep the cats away.mousetrap

Don’t worry, the goal here was not to trap the cats. Or even hurt them. All I wanted to do was scare the stupid things so they wouldn’t eat my herbs! mousetrap 2

The theory is that they’ll jump on the microwave on the way to the high herbs. The vibration will trigger the mousetrap, which will jump and make a loud noise. The movement and noise will scare the cat, and my herbs are safe. (There’s also on on top of the cabinet, right next to the container.)

We also tried to protect the geranium.mousetrap 3

Did you notice I said tried?

That’s because it didn’t work.

The first night, we heard a trap go off. The next morning, we found it was the one on top of the cabinet (the one on the microwave hadn’t budged), and there was no new carnage.

Today, however, is a different story.

There were more chives on the floor.

And my geranium had been attacked again.geranium 2

But the mousetraps were just as we had left them!

Aargh! If only I knew which cat this was! Maybe I should flip the mousetraps right side up…

Okay. Maybe not.

Next, we will interrogate the suspects

It’s so pretty…

April 4, 2011

And it actually works!

Way back a million years ago, my dishwasher revolted. It became a dish-dirtier.

Okay. It wasn’t a million years ago. It was not quite eleven months ago. But it feels like a million years.

Because we have been sans dishwasher ever since.

Until last Thursday!dishwasher 1We have a pretty new Kenmore dishwasher!

It has all these fancy options!dishwasher 2

It is so clean and pretty inside!dishwasher 3

The silverware basket is tucked in along the side, and has lids for the little things that can get tossed around.dishwasher 8

The top and bottom racks both have tines that will stand up straight… dishwasher 6

…or will fold down if you need more tine-free room!dishwasher 7

It has TurboZone washing for those hard to clean, stuck on messes!dishwasher 4

And it even has a gauge to see how much rinse aid is left in the machine!dishwasher 5

And the best part? It actually washes dishes! I’ve run it three times since Thursday!

Let me tell you… This made my weekend! Even though it took all afternoon Thursday to get it installed. (To be fair, there were a few interruptions from other projects. More on that later…)

Garden party

April 1, 2011

Last weekend, District 9 of the Indiana Farm Bureau held a spring meeting at Family Roots Nursery in Dale, IN. It was a chilly, rainy day, but we had a blast inside the greenhouse!

Aaron and Andrea Peters, the owners, took care of most of the details for the day, and we all had a blast! Because we couldn’t really do much outside, they cleared a large area in the middle of the greenhouse, and we were able to have all our sessions and even lunch inside! DSC_0544

What a neat atmosphere!DSC_0547

We got a behind-the-scenes tour of how their operation works.DSC_0557

We learned about their irrigation and fertilizer systems.DSC_0566

And talked about where their plants come from (most are started on their farm in Illinois, and then shipped to the greenhouse in Indiana when they are close to ready for sale).DSC_0596

Aaron told us about the types of plants that Thomas and Abraham Lincoln planted in their gardens and on their farms. Lots of the plants and crops we use today can be traced back to that farm!DSC_0554

(He gets a little passionate about that subject.)DSC_0643

Andrea told us about container gardening.DSC_0602

And she made it look so easy! She even convinced me to bring home things for a container herb garden of my own. DSC_0614

And, of course, I played with my new camera.DSC_0585

There was so much inspiration, it was hard to keep my hands off the shutter!DSC_0577

It made me ready for spring!!DSC_0593

Look! A pineapple! (Did you know that in this climate it takes almost six years for a single fruit to grow to maturity? No wonder we don’t grow pineapples in Indiana! And see, I learned something on this trip, too!)DSC_0589

I really wish I had a green thumb… Maybe my flower gardens will magically look pretty this year? Or maybe I’ll head back to Family Roots Nursery for one of their free Saturday seminars to get help…

Yes, that’s probably smarter than waiting on magic.DSC_0630

BTW, all these photos are straight out of the camera (SOOC). Have I mentioned that I am in love?