Monday, August 31, 2009

Suddenly, Sad Day

I woke up this morning to our 14-year-old wiener dog, Oscar, being very sick. He's been having bowel problems here and there, but this time there was blood in it, and it was completely uncontrollable. I took these picture of him just before Michael took him to our veterinarian approximately two hours after we got out of bed. I'm so glad I did. We had to make the tough decision to put him down. I know it was the right thing, but it is was/still is heartbreaking. Josiah was extremely upset at first, but he's already getting over it, so that is a praise. I'm the one who is still having a hard time. I'm hoping that by blogging this, it will help me process it better. There is a huge blessing in all this that I just have to share. I've been worried that Michael would be gone when it was Oscar's time to go and I didn't think I could handle it. Praise God, Michael happened to be home this morning, purely a God thing. He took care of everything and even brought Oscar back to be buried in our backyard and make a cross for him. I can't tell you how grateful I am that he happened to be here when the day came.

Like my Dad said when I told him about Oscar, "There are dogs and there are a few really good dogs. Oscar was a good one". What is funny, is that I grew up with cow dogs and at first I didn't want a "rat dog". Michael grew up with them and really wanted one. I finally conceded two years after we were married because we didn't have room for a big dog and I was desperate for company because Michael was gone so much due to military duties. When I saw Oscar for the first time, I fell in love with him instantly. He was our baby for 6 years before we had Josiah. He did everything with us. I'd take him everywhere and all our friends and family welcomed him because he was such a good dog. He always slept in bed with us/me. I'm really going to miss him tonight. I already miss him greeting us at the door and cleaning up my food messes in the kitchen. We always joked that he was our "vacuum cleaner dog". I wish I had a digital picture of him when he was young. He was the best looking wiener dog I've ever seen and the best natured as well. Never a yapper or overly protective. He just loved being with people.

Here is a picture of Oscar's grave. Michael hurriedly took the time to bury him and make him a wooden cross before he rushed to work. I wrote "Oscar R.I.P." and "Beloved Dog" on it. We sang "Amazing Grace" and said a prayer and cried. It was good for Josiah and I to have some closure. It happened so suddenly and it is going to take me awhile to process it. Josiah already seems like he has accepted it. Luckily, Hailey doesn't really have a clue. I'm the one who falls apart every time someone asks me how I'm doing. Please keep us in your prayers as we grieve this loss of an important member of our family.
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Monday, August 24, 2009

Bronze and Bikes Rally

This was our second year of going to the Bronze and Bikes Rally in Joseph, OR. We got a babysitter for the whole day (a rare thing indeed) and had a great time together. I rode behind Michael and our helmets are wired so we can talk. It is so nice to be able to talk and not just point and hope the other person sees this or that. It was extra fun this year since my mom got to come with us. It is such a beautiful ride up there. The town is adorable and there are lots of fun places to shop. I really like this rally because it is put on by a Christian bike club and there isn't any wild stuff happening, just good old fun. Nobody is runny around half-dressed and drinking. The setting is absolutely gorgeous with the Wallowa Mountains towering in the back drop (you can see them peeking out behind the roof of the store behind us). Of course all the bikes are great scenery in themselves.
I was trying to show just one line of bikes but the picture doesn't do it justice. There were well over 1000 bikes in town that day. Here's Mom and Michael getting ready to go shopping. Yes, I have a husband that likes to shop in all the little stores and vendor booths. He doesn't like to buy, but he loves to look. I'm so blessed! I did buy and "Iron Cowgirls" T-shirt that I thought was really cute.

Mom spent two nights with us. She was loaded for bear. You can see how much stuff she packed onto the back of her bike. I just had to take a picture. There is even a carry-on suitcase behind her backrest! She never did know how to pack light, LOL! On Friday, Mom and I got to go for a nice, long mother/daughter ride. She said she's seen improvement in my riding just since our last ride together. Yeah! I need to just keep plugging away at and ride ever chance I get.
Our friends, Lindsey and Paula, met us up at the rally. Just before we came home we rode down to Wallowa Lake and swung into a pull-off for a photo op. We all rode back together. The weather was perfect and the company was even better!
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Thursday, August 20, 2009

(Prt 3) Homeschool Oregon Trail Field Trip Through the Blues

Here we all are at the second section of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Park at Spring Creek. The park host was at the camp display and answered a bunch of questions and explained the different parts of the wagon and some of the goods they brought along. Of course, we roped him into taking a picture of all of us before we moved on.

This was super interesting and something I've never seen before. Beth is holding up a pressed, dried tea tile. The park host got it out of the wagon to show it to us. They would bring these on the trail and scrape some off to make tea. They were brought over from China as you can see by the design and the Chinese writing. I couldn't believe they let us touch it.

Camp kids. This got me in the mood to do some Dutch oven cooking. Beth said she and her hubby like Dutch oven cooking, too.

Here are the ruts (to the right of the kids) along the Spring Creek portion of the Oregon Trail. This part of the journey was extremely difficult because the terrain afforded a steep climb for Oregon Trail travelers. They had to stay on top of the mountains because it was the least amount of grade. The problem was that the water was down in the ravines and they'd have to haul water a 1/2 mile. They had real issues with losing livestock and even people in the Blues because of how thick the timber was.

I didn't get a picture of it, but we also got to look at an old stage coach road. It was a main artery, as it was the Oregon-California (or is it California-Oregon?) Stage Road.

Also, as we drove by Hilgard State Park, we saw the 3 sets of wagon ruts going down the steep hill to where they forded the Grande Rhonde River and then traveled up to Spring Creek. It was a great example of how the trail would shift due to wash out, etc.

Well that's it. Hope you all have a chance to see this for yourself some day.
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(Prt 2) Homeschool Oregon Trail Field Trip Through the Blues

We next traveled from Deadman's Pass to a breathtaking scenic viewpoint just before you get to Emigrant Springs. The kids had a great time catching the abundant grasshoppers, while Beth and I took guesses at the plant life and taught the kids some basic ecology. I really need to get a wildflower ID book. I just love to ID stuff. This picture gives you an idea at how rough the terrain is going over the Blue Mountains.

Next stop was Emigrant Springs. Didn't see any ruts, but they have some great signs and information about the trail and a covered wagon which afforded us a great photo op.
Our next stop is the little known Oregon Trail Interpretive Park at Spring Creek. It is right off the freeway. Great place to have our picnic lunch. The park is split into two sections. There are a bunch of trail heads at the first section along with the picnic area. There was an old logging display that was really interesting.

I just had to throw in this picture of Hailey because she's just so darned cute. I know, I'm prejudice!
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(Pt 1) Oregon Trail Through the Blues Homeschool Field Trip

Our local Christian homeschooling group went on one more field trip this summer. Originally, I had 7 families who were going to make it, but as the date neared, only one family beside us was actually able to come. Bummer for all of them, because we had a great time. If we are still around next summer, I may do it again.

The Koza and Whitesell families first drove up to the eastbound rest area at Deadman's Pass to look at the Oregon Trail ruts. We walk about a 1/4 of a mile along the trail. Someday, I'd like to take more time and see how far you can walk on that section of the trail before you run into private property.
Hailey wanted to keep up with the other kids so badly. We talked with the kids about how it would have felt to be a kid walking across the country.
My sister says, "Walking were thousands of pioneers walked, gives me goose bumps." I couldn't have said it better.
You can see the beautiful trail through the trees. When the first pioneers got to the Blue Mountains they had to build a road through the thick old growth timber with dulled axes and blistered hands. The timber was so thick that in places you couldn't see a man in front of you more than 10 feet away. The going was extremely tough.
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Monday, August 17, 2009

Historic Ritter Hot Springs

I thought I'd take some picture of Ritter Hot Springs to show you what kind of place it is. There are a lot of hiking trails in the area. I wasn't able to get a shot of the two cabins on the other side of the hotel. You can rent them out. It is a great place for smaller family gatherings and I believe they have a few hook ups for RVs. The cabins are pretty nice, but generally speaking the whole place is kind of run down, which is fine with me because there aren't a lot of people and it is inexpensive. Apparently this place used to be a real destination. Lots of famous people would come stay here. It is in the heart of cowboy country, near Long Creek, OR (kind of by John Day). The white building is the old hotel. They must be working on it because there were more rooms open than I've ever seen before.
Here is a shot of the pool. It is always the perfect temperature for swimming. They have lots of pool toys to play with. We put Josiah and Hailey in their life jackets. Josiah had a ball jumping off the diving board. They have bath houses where you can soak in hot springs water across the river. They are really rustic and smell of that lovely hot springs sulfur smell.
This is the old Ritter Springs General Store. You probably can't read the sign, but at the bottom is says, "Ranchers and Cowboys Supplies". It is closed now, but it just looks so neat. I'd love to see the inside. You still see lots of modern day cowboys and ranchers when you go to Ritter. Hope you all have enjoyed the virtual tour of historic Ritter Hot Springs. If you're ever in that area between Memorial Day and Labor Day, stop by and go for a swim. Don't forget that they are closed on Friday evenings through Saturday afternoons. They open up again Saturday evenings.
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Ritter Hot Springs Birthday Fun

According to my mom, the best thing we could ever do for her birthday is meet up with her at Ritter Hot Springs. The owners are Seventh Day Adventists, so we have to go on a Sunday or during the week. Mom's birthday landed on a Sunday this year and it worked out that we were able to go. The weather was perfect! It was even more fun this year because we brought some motorcycles. The road to Ritter is the perfect motorcycle road, so full of curves and breath-taking scenery. Michael and I tag teamed it with the kids in the Subaru. He road half way there on the Harley, we switched, and I rode the rest of the way. We did the same on the way back. It was nice having the Subaru, so I could surprise Mom with what we deemed was the "ugliest birthday cake on the planet". Seriously, they spelled her name wrong, even after I spelled it out twice for them over the phone. The butterflies looked like something a kid did, and yellow and black? We all had a good laugh over that one. Mom loved her "ugly cake" even more. They brought cold chicken and I brought the makings for taco salads.

My Grandma was able to come, too. Have I said before how much I love that she's living so close by now? We are seeing so much of her. The kids are really getting to know her. She wasn't able to swim, but she laid out in the sun and basked for awhile on the lawn. Here is a picture of us girls (looks like Josiah managed to get in the photo, too).

Here are the guys (with Hailey), sitting on the porch of the old hotel after our swim. The water was perfect! It was so nice having Michael home for an entire weekend after being gone for 5 weeks.
I thought this picture of Hailey in her cute little swim suit, playing with a party blower, was so cute.
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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Feta Cheese Recipe (Raw)

One of the other cheeses I make that people just seem to go crazy over is feta. This is another cheese I don't have to age and it is super easy to make. The only hard part is keeping all of us out of it while it is brining on the counter! When I trade cheese for eggs or what have you, most people pick my feta cheese over the queso fresco. I give this to my hair dresser in lieu of a tip and she always brags to the other hair dresser that she got the best tip of the day :). We use this cheese in our scrambled eggs, breakfast hash, tacos, quesadillas, omelets, burgers and of course our salads or just as a snack all by itself. It is nice because it is already cut up and I just throw a handful into whatever I'm making. This recipe is for approximately 4 lbs, using 4 gallons of milk. You can reduce it down if you'd like. It freezes really well, so why not make a lot? You can use goat or cow's milk for this recipe.

Raw Feta Cheese Recipe:
1. Heat 4 gallons of milk to 86 degrees F for a moist cheese, 90 degrees F for a drier cheese (can use skim milk if desired, but it will make less, also eating the cream with the raw milk is better for you) Add 1/4 tsp direct set mesophilic starter or 8 oz prepared mesophilic starter. Cover and allow milk to ripen for 1 hour.

2. In 1/4 cup of unchlorinated water, add 1 tsp liquid rennet or 1 rennet tablet. Stir. Add the rennet/water solution to milk and gently stir with an up and down motion for a minute. Cover and set at 86 degrees for 1 hour.

3. Cut the curd into 1/2 cubes. Set undisturbed for 10 minutes. (The picture above was taken just after I cut the curd)

4. Gently stir curds for 20 minutes.

5. Drain as much whey as you can, (You can see the three full jars of whey in the background - save it for other uses) until you can pour or scoop curds into a cheese cloth-lined colander. Tie the corners of the cheesecloth into a knot and hang bag over cheese pot. Let drain for 4 to 6 hours. (I use a Pampered Chef barbecue basting brush to hang my cheese on. Use whatever works for you. If you are doing less than 4 lbs, you can get away with just pouring the curds and whey directly into the cheese cloth-lined colander.)

6. Untie bag and cut curds into 1/4 to 1/2 inch cubes. Lay out in non-metallic pans (I use stoneware, can also use glass), then sprinkle with with salt to taste. I use coarse-ground Celtic Sea Salt.

7. Let stand at room temperature for 24 hours, At about 12 hours, pour off the whey, stir cheese around a bit and add more salt if needed. After 24 hours, put in fridge or freeze.
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Thursday, August 13, 2009

No-Cook (raw) Freezer Jam

I made 20 cups of fresh strawberry jam last night. I used one flat of strawberries (well more or less by the time we got done eating some) from our local farmer's market. One of the great discoveries I made when I began my journey to eat healthier was this no-cook freezer jam recipe made with Pomona's Universal Pectin. I love this stuff! It is a low methoxyl pectin extracted from citrus peel. Its jelling power is activated by calcium, not by sugar content. Instead of sugar, I use raw honey. My hubby doesn't like honey, but he's never complained about my jam. For some reason the honey flavor isn't overpowering in this recipe. I have no guilt whatsoever when I feed this jam to my kids. Since it is entirely raw, the enzymes are still intact which aid in digestion. Not to mention it has more vitamins and minerals in it since I'm not cooking them out of the fruit. You can use whatever fruit you want. If this recipe doesn't give you thick enough results, just add a little more pectin or calcium water until you are happy with it. I get my Pomona's Pectin in bulk from Azure Standard. I know you can buy it on-line, too. Just make sure you have plenty before you start.

No-Cook (Raw) Freezer Jam Recipe:

Wash, hull, pit fruit as applicable. If possible, leave skins on then mash or grind at room temperature. You may need to use a food processor or blender for this task depending on hardness of fruit.

4 cups mashed fruit
1/4 cup lemon or lime juice (optional)
1 cup honey (more or less depending on how sweet you like it)

Mix all these ingredients together.

Boil some water and measure out 3/4 cup into food processor or blender.
Immediately add 4 tsp of pectin powder. Blend for 1 minute. Pour into mashed fruit. Make sure fruit is at room temperature before doing this step! Mix well.

Prepare calcium water:
1/2 tsp calcium powder mixed with 1/2 cup cold water. Mix well then add to 4 to 12 tsp to jam. (I just add a little at a time until I get the right consistency.)

Pour into clean glass containers. Fill, leaving head space. Put lids on and freeze.
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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Child's Faith Strengthed

You are probably looking at these pictures and wondering "What does a child's faith have to do with soccer?" Well, I'll tell you. Soccer has been a challenge for Josiah. He has had a really hard time staying on his feet due to lack of coordination. He must have hit a growth spurt by about the third soccer game (he's been having growing pains at night again) and it really effected his coordination. Seriously, he's down more than he's up most of the time.

Last night he prayed before dinner that God would help him get a goal again. I was cringing inside, and in my short-sightedness, I was thinking "What will happen to his faith if he doesn't get a goal?" That will teach me to think inside the box. At last night's game, not only did God help him stay on his feet more (I only saw him fall down twice), he got TWO GOALS! I'm still praising God.

As I thought about it later, I was reminded that God is such a personal God, even with children. He is teaching Josiah faith in way that speak to him alone. What a relief to remember that I am only one tool in God's tool box.

My friend, Ruth, took these pictures while they were visiting. She has an amazing camera and I thought that even though they aren't last night's game, they were good pictures and went with the theme of my story. I love the first picture where Josiah is concentrating so hard on getting his first goal, that his tongue is sticking out.

This is a great picture of Josiah running. One of the things we worked on with him was "hustling" to the help his teammates out. He learned so much. I'm not a sports person, so this was all really new to me. It honestly isn't a lifestyle I enjoy all that much, rushing to a different town for a game, keeping Hailey out of everybody's stuff, off the field and from throwing a fit when I tell her "no". However, when I see the things Josiah has learned, I'll probably do it next year. He has informed me that he wants to play soccer for the rest of his life. Being a mother is about sacrifice and I have to remind myself of that.

I thought this was good picture of Josiah and I.
Of course, I just had to throw in this beauty. That expression she has on her face just speaks volumns. She's probably trying to figure out a way to steal some water bottles from Josiah's teammates. My lil' firey red-headed girl. I'm so blessed with my kids. They both have intense personalities, like me, but I'd rather have that than bumps on logs anyday. They have a zest for life (and for God) that is inspiring and pushes me to be a better mom.
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Monday, August 10, 2009

Back from Annual Training

Michael has been gone for 4 weeks between a one week training with the Forest Service and a 3 week annual training for the Oregon National Guard. He came home on Friday evening, but then had drill Saturday and Sunday during the day. We got to see him in snatches, but hey, we aren't complaining. At least we got to see him. The kids went nuts! Michael is such a good dad. He was utterly exhausted, yet he still managed to maul the kids, swing Hailey, target practice with the BB gun with both kids and read and tuck them into bed.
Michael was amazed at the changes in Hailey. She's now potty trained and communicating so much better. She wouldn't let him out of her sight. She wanted him to take her out of her car seat, read her bedtime story, etc. It was hard getting her to go to sleep because she kept crying for him.

As you can see by this picture, even our old wiener dog, Oscar, was happy to see Michael. As for me, these absences always make me appreciate what Michael means to our family even more. He contributes not only to our physical needs, but emotionally as well. Our marriage isn't perfect. We have our struggles just like anybody else, but this I know. God gave me a wonderful gift when he chose Michael to be my husband. He knew exactly what I needed.
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Thursday, August 6, 2009

First Mother/Daughter Ride

Josiah had a soccer game this last Tuesday and my mom rode her bike over for it. Unfortunately, we had a really bad wind/hail/rain storm that afternoon and they canceled the game. So, since she was already at my house and my MIL , Kay, was there to watch the kids, we finally got to take the mother/daughter ride that we've been trying to plan all summer. It was wonderful! I was a little nervous because I knew she'd be critiquing me -and she was, but that is OK. She's my mom, that is her job. I'm always open to more safety suggestions and how to be a better rider. She's a super cautious rider and I can learn a lot from her. It was so nice to ride with another biker chick and the fact that she's my mom made it even more fun!

My MIL, Kay, was so sweet. I got to go on three rides this weekend while she watched the kids for me. It was so nice having help and great to have some company. Thanks so much, Kay! I even got her signed up with a Facebook account while she was up here. She went home happy because we got some free dill at the farmer's markent and she was able to purchase 30 lbs of pickling cukes to make her famous family pickle recipe.
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