Friday, June 13, 2014

Happy Father's Day

One of my favorite things in the entire world is when my Dad shows up at my office and takes me out for lunch.  Since my parents live in another state, I don't get to see them as often as I'd like.  When Dad comes to Indiana, he usually surprises me by just showing up.  I am always excited to see him and it's the highlight of my day.


My Dad and I getting ready to go to lunch.
Had to take a selfie first!


My Dad, is really my step-dad, but he adopted my brother and I when we were younger (it's a long story, but my parents went through an ugly divorce) and has treated us as his own ever since.  I can't thank him enough for always being there for me and I can't thank my two step-sisters and step-brother enough for sharing him with us.

Dad,

  • You didn't have to take on the responsibility of providing us with food, clothing and shelter - but you did. 
  • You didn't have to take on the responsibility of making sure we went to church and had a relationship with Jesus - but you did.
  • You didn't have to take on the responsibility of making sure we had a good education and a positive upbringing - but you did. 
  • You didn't have to love us like we were your own - but you did.
Although there have been several important men in my life (my grandpa's, Bill and my brother's) my Dad has always been that one constant and voice of reason for me.  Here's to my Dad on Father's Day and to all of yours!
  

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Slow Cooker Pork BBQ

Slow Cooker Pork BBQ


One of my favorite go-to recipes is for Slow Cooker Pork BBQ.  It's quick, simple and there isn't a lot of work involved.  I have to admit though, I am a little weird...I eat mine with potato chips instead of on a bun. This is also an easy recipe to make and take to the guys if they are in the field.  I simply make their sandwich up, wrap it in aluminum foil to keep it warm and deliver it with some chips and a cold drink and they are happy little farmers!  You can also find this delicious recipe on the McCormick website!

SLOW COOKER PORK BBQ

Ingredients:
3 pounds boneless pork shoulder roast
1 package of McCormick's Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork Seasoning
1/2 to 3/4 cup of ketchup
1/2 to 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 to 1/2 cup of cider vinegar

Directions: 
Place pork in slow cooker.  Mix seasoning mix, ketchup, brown sugar and vinegar until blended.  (We like ours with a lot of sauce, so I usually use 3/4 cup of the ketchup and brown sugar and 1/2 cup of cider vinegar).  Pour over the pork.  Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours.  After the pork has cooked, remove it from the slow cooker, and shred it using 2 forks.  Put the pork back in the slow cooker.  Mix and heat it with the sauce before serving.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Basic Baked Beans

Basic Baked Beans


Baked Beans can go with just about any meal and is a staple at most summer cookouts.  I admit that I have no tried and true recipe for them.  I've tried several and honestly, I think it boils down to how you are used to them being made.  That being said, here is a basic recipe that you can adapt easily and call it your own.


Basic Baked Beans

Ingredients:
1 large can of baked beans (any variety)
1/2 c chopped onion
2 T mustard
2 c ketchup
1 c brown sugar
3 to 4 slices of bacon

Directions:
Mix all ingredients together.  Pour into a casserole dish and place bacon strips on top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 to 1.5 hours.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Beer Simmered Smoked Sausage and Potatoes

 
Beer Simmered Smoked Sausage and Potatoes

I could eat smoked sausage every day.  There is just something about it that my taste buds like.  After surfing the Internet the other day, I came across this new favorite recipe from Hillshire Farm.

It was very easy to prepare on a night that I came home late.  I didn't have a few of the ingredients, but it still turned out delicious.  The flavor was addicting.

The only thing that I might do differently next time is to add some peppers to the recipe.  If you are looking for a quick evening go to meal, this would be perfect.  Thank you Hillshire Farm for a yummy meal!

Beer Simmered Smoked Sausage and Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 1 pkg. Hillshire Farm® Smoked Sausage
  • ¼ cup butter or margarine
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bottle (12 ounces) regular or non-alcoholic beer
  • 2 lbs. red potatoes, cut into 1” cubes (about 6 cups)
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Directions:

  1. Cut sausage into ½”slices. Melt butter in a 4-5 quart pan over medium-high heat. Add sausage, onion and garlic; cook 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently until onion is soft and sausage is lightly browned.
  2. Add beer and potatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook 15-20 minutes or until potatoes are just tender.
  3. Stir in green onions, salt and pepper. Increase heat to medium-high and cook uncovered for 4 minutes or until liquid thickens slightly. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Sadie Girl

My beautiful Sadie!

 
I admit it!  I am a pure sucker for fur babies.  Sadie, our lab-chow mix, who has never (in the eight years we have had her) left home...until April 15th.  On this particular day, Sadie was there in the morning when I left for work, but when I came home that evening, she was no where to be found.  Bill didn't want to jump to conclusions and said she would probably be back later. 

When the next morning came and there was still no Sadie, I was concerned and so was Bill.  He spent most of that day driving around the farm and up and down the roads, checking the ditches, looking for her.  No luck. Wednesday, April 16th came and went with no sign of Sadie.  On Thursday, April 17th, Bill enlisted the help of a friend and searched the woods and neighboring fields.  Nothing.  By this point, I am beside myself.  Where did she go?  What happened to her?  I had Good Friday off, so I was determined to find her.  Libby, my other lab, and I took the Gator and went on a 5 hour search...still no Sadie.  By that evening, I had given up hope and started to accept the fact that something tragic had happened to my precious pup.  

Saturday morning came and Bill had gone into town.  Libby and I were sitting on the front porch when he came home.  As he came up closer to the house, he was pointing in the back yard.  I thought he was nuts UNTIL I figured out that Sadie must be back there.  I ran to the backyard and there she was.  A bloody mess.  She had been hit. Her back right leg appeared to be broken, her front left paw was split wide open, there was a huge gash in her side and part of her right arm pit was hanging down.  She looked awful and all I could do was cry and tell her I loved her as I tried to comfort her.

Bill got the truck and pulled it up in the yard to where she was, I got a blanket and a towel to wrap her in so she wouldn't get blood everywhere and Bill lifted her in the truck.  She never made a sound, but I could see the pain in her beautiful brown eyes.  My baby had come home, but she was hurt.

The next few hours were so stressful.  We took her to Country Acre Animal Clinic where Dr. Nathan Rich said he would check her over and call me.  We were sent home.  Within the hour Dr. Rich called and gave me a detailed report of her injuries.  Bill and I talked and discussed putting her down...but she was our first pet together as a couple and we love her so.  No, that wasn't an option.  We would do what we could to save her.

I urge anyone who hits an animal to STOP and tell someone.  If we had known Sadie had been hit, we could have provided care for her wounds a lot sooner.  Accidents happen, but driving off and doing or saying nothing is not acceptable.

I must warn you that the following pictures are a little gross and little ones should not look at these.  When I was finally able to visit Sadie, this is how my poor baby looked (but she was alive)!

Sadie, with the cone of shame.  She hates that thing.



This is the huge gash in her side that they had to stitch up.
The thing that looks like bone sticking out, is actually a drain tube.


This is the leg she had surgery one because it was broken.
She now has a splint on there as well because she keeps trying
to put weight on it.

This photo shows her armpit and again the things that look
like bones are actually drain tubes.  You can see they have
wrapped the left front leg with a wet/dry bandage.

This is my baby once she finally came home.
She needs a bath, but that will wait until she is better.
She likes for us to rub her belly while she lays on the floor and snores!
 
Sadie will have several long months of recovery but for now she is doing well and healing nicely.  She will be 11 in October and we are thrilled that we will still have her around with us.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

It's Time for Baby Chicks

Spring is finally here and I could not be happier.  After the rough, frigid temperatures and the never ending piles of snow, this girl was thrilled to put on Capri's, flip flops and a t-shirt!  I must admit that it was short lived.  Today, when I woke up there was a dusting of snow on my car.  Only in Indiana does it seem that the temperatures fluctuate so drastically on a daily basis. 

One thing I really enjoy about Spring, is all the baby chicks we start raising.  I actually purchased about 70 back in February.  I do this every year, however, the first batch I received from the hatchery didn't survive the cold journey on the mail truck.  The post office called to tell me there was no chirping or movement in the box and I should think about refusing the package.  I refused the package and called the hatchery.  They were so kind and sent another shipment to me within a week.  All of these survived but two.  If you are just starting out and want a good hatchery to purchase from, I suggest McMurray Hatchery.  They are wonderful to work with and their birds are of the highest quality.


These pullets are now about 2 months old.  We kept them in the garage with the heat lamps to start off with and we have now moved them to the small barn where they will be free to roam around inside and outside (when I am home to supervise them and watch for predators).  At this particular age, the pullets are easy pray for predators when they are outside.  Falcons and hawks will swoop down and take them when you're not watching closely.  We have also had trouble with minks, raccoons and neighboring cats trying to prey on these sweeties.  Fortunately, we have our faithful dogs, Sadie and Libby who diligently help control the predators.



I'm not really supposed to share this picture with you (thus him pointing the finger at me), but I couldn't resist.  After we had moved all 70 of the chicks, Bill "reclined" on the cement to take a break.  I can't say enough good stuff about my husband...I fall deeper in love with him everyday.  He doesn't particularly like the chickens, but he loves me and it shows...maybe not by this picture though!  Lol!  It's probably a good thing Bill is there to keep me grounded, or we would have an entire farm of different animals by now.


 
If you are considering starting a backyard chicken project, I would strongly suggest this time of the year.  The Spring weather is perfect for baby chicks (after being under the heat lamp for a few weeks) and for you.   The baby chicks above were hatched at the 2014 Henry County Ag Day event where all the first graders in the county schools came out and learned how pizza ingredients come from a farm.  These little lovelies came back to the farm with me along with two adorable cats.  It's really awesome to teach kids about farm life and for them to learn that their food comes from hard working farmers and not from the back of a grocery store.  Before you purchase any type of animal, make sure you have adequate shelter, food, water and anything else they might need.  If it's chicks, be sure to have a heat lamp (or two), shavings for them to walk on and a good dry area/container to keep them in.
 
Here's to you and a Happy Spring!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Struggling through PCOS


As a high school student, I noticed that I had really bad acne and a lot of facial hair.  That "time of the month" was horrible for me.  Although I was alarmed, especially with all the facial hair, everyone seemed to shrug it off.

It wasn't until my mid-20's that I had gone to the doctor and sought treatment for not being able to get pregnant.  It was then, that I learned that I had PCOS...Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.  I had no clue what this was, but would soon discover that it's something that I will spend the rest of my life trying to deal with.  It would also cause an infertility nightmare.

PCOS is basically a hormone disorder among women of reproduction age.  There are small cysts that attach themselves along the outer edge of the ovary.  As if this wasn't displeasing enough, the symptoms can include:

  • Acne
  • Excessive hair growth
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Irregular periods
  • Obesity
  • Infertility
  • AND MORE!

I have almost all of these symptoms and went through many procedures trying to conceive.  I have to tell you that not being able to have a child of my own is one of the hardest things I have ever had to cope with in my life.

As I started to get closer to my 30th birthday, I really wanted to have a child.  I began to see specialists in the fields of infertility.  Although some of the options seemed a little far fetched, we were willing to pursue what avenues we could afford.  Keep in mind, there are always payment plans!

We began small with several insulin helping medications to see if it would help my ovaries release an egg.  Until you have gone through this, you have no idea how much of an emotional roller coaster infertility is.  Every time you check to see if you might be ovulating (or pregnant), it's heart wrenching to know that you are not.  After the insulin medications, we stepped it up a notch to shots.  Now this was a fun time -- NOT!  Long story short, it didn't work either.

At this point, money is running short and most insurances, including mine, do not cover infertility treatments.  The specialists, whom I was growing tired of seeing so much, suggested that we try invitro.  Invitro fertilization is expensive and they do have payment plans.  For one go around of invitro, taking 3 of my eggs and combining it with sperm was going to be around $20,000 (give or take of course) and so much had to be paid up front.  This is where it came down to the nitty gritty.  I don't know about you, but most average people don't have that kind of money just laying around.  We were blessed to have help with some of the other treatments, but this was a huge amount of money for no actual guarantees of having a child.

The actual stress of my body trying numerous medicines, the emotional toll it was taking on me mentally and the spiritual journey of not understanding why God had not entrusted me with such a special gift became almost too much to handle. 

After a lot of prayer and discussion of if we should try invitro or pursue adoption, it was decided to do nothing.  I know there are a lot of kids in the world who need loved, my (step) Dad adopted me and my brother, but for some reason, it wasn't an avenue that was pursued.  Later in life, when I divorced my first husband, I was able to look back and be thankful that there wasn't a child trapped in the middle of a divorce.

I will tell you that all of this did not just go away.  It was heart breaking.  I went through a depression.  I couldn't attend baby showers, or be happy for co-workers and friends that were pregnant.  Every little baby that I would pass at the grocery store, brought tears to my eyes.  Nothing in my life made sense and I found myself asking God, "why me?" 

I was finally given the book from Focus on the Family called, "When the Cradle is Empty."  What a book.  Everything in there is accurate.  I learned that by not being able to have a child, I had to go through a grieving process over a child that I never even had.  Plus, I learned that God would use me in other ways.

I believe that God has placed me in my current job at the Extension Office for a reason.  For 2 full weeks during the month of July, I consider myself truly blessed to have a family of over 500 4-H youth that I get to see, love, encourage and support during the annual county 4-H fair.  I have an adoring husband who makes my life complete and nieces and nephews that I spoil even more because I don't have children of my own. 

I often wonder who will come and see my when I get old and am in a nursing home.  My heart still aches knowing that I don't have that special son or daughter to watch over me in my old age, but I know that somehow God will provide.

I still struggle with PCOS.  The facial hair and the weight gain are the most embarrassing aspects, but I know it's not the end of the world and that God loves me (and YOU) no matter what we look like, what we've gone through or where we have been.  Without my faith in God, I couldn't have made it this far.

For more information, visit: http://www.pcosfoundation.org