Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Fun Spontaneity

Last week, Dad and Mom took a trip up to Nebraska to visit Grandma and Aunt Marci (my Dad's Mom and sister) and had such a special and good time with them. Meanwhile Leah and I took care of things around here. We had busy days with things like all the animal chores and business work!

One day, though, we needed to run some errands in town (getting feed, mailing out orders, etc.) and decided to combine that with a hike at a state park right close by. While not quite the Rocky Mountains :), we had so much fun there! Even despite the mosquitoes . . . there were gazillions of them. And that's not much of an exaggeration. :)


The first part of the hike, they were so abundant that we walked quite fast as we found that prevented them from biting. We were only stopping very briefly to look at something, take a photo, etc. It was quite entertaining! As we went on, there were fewer and fewer of the pesky little creatures, and we slowed down our pace.

Sunlight filtering through the trees with the creek down below

The hike is 2.5 miles and is estimated to take 1 hr. and 45 min., but we did it in less than an hour. Largely thanks to the mosquitoes. :)

We had to laugh at this sign . . . great directions, eh? 
(By looking at the map, then we could see that the arrow pointing to the right was simply to a short exit/entrance trail to the main trail.)

There were so many pretty little wildflowers blooming! 

Leah

A terrible photo, but it shows the Pileated Woodpecker we were able to see! A rare treat. There were so many birds flitting through the trees and calling/singing which added to the enjoyable atmosphere. 

Mosquito haven :) 

There has been a lot of rain here in Missouri so the trail was pretty wet, places of it were washed out (making it a bit difficult to see where to go at times), and the creek that the trail crosses was higher than normal. Which meant taking off shoes and socks and wading!


Laughing, teasing and enjoying it all, we had so much fun here wading in the water, watching the little minnows, and more.


The water felt so good! 


Looking up the creek 

Colorful leaves floating downstream 

Eventually, we left the water behind and proceeded on our way . . . .

The rocky trail

Going up into the hills

Leah taking a picture of some asters 

More asters

We finished out our hike hot, sweaty, and happy (oh yes, and a little itchy, too!) It was so fun to squeeze in this much enjoyed little outing into our week! 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Recipes ~ Crockpot Basil Chicken and Sweet Potato Wedges

A delicious meal of basil chicken, sweet potato wedges, and fresh garden salad

When looking for more crockpot recipes several months ago, I had come across one for the chicken and made it, but . . . we didn't especially like the flavor. The method of making it was really simple and easy, though, so I experimented with various ingredients and came up with this recipe which is definitely a keeper!

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Basil Crockpot Chicken

-1 1/2 to 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
-1/2 cup whole wheat flour
-1/2 tsp. lemon pepper seasoning
-1/2-3/4 tsp. pepper
-1/8-1/4 tsp. garlic salt
-1 to 1 1/4 tsp. dried basil
-3 Tbsp. butter, divided
-1 cup chicken broth

Prepare your chicken by rinsing it and trimming off the fat. In a shallow dish, combine the flour and seasonings. Coat each piece of chicken in the flour mixture. 

Melt 2 tbsp. of the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Once melted, brown each side of the chicken. You want them golden brown, but not cooked through. Repeat the process with the remaining butter, flour mixture, and chicken.

Grease the slow-cooker (coconut oil works great for this!) and place the browned chicken in the bottom. Add the chicken broth.

Cook on low for 3-4 hours and then enjoy!

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And since the oven was free with the main dish being in the crockpot, baked sweet potato wedges were a great addition . . . .

Extra Crispy Sweet Potato Wedges

-2 large sweet potatoes, peeled or unpeeled and cut into wedges
-2 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
-1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
-1 tsp. sugar (I used evaporated cane juice and less than what was called for)
-1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
-1/2 tsp. black pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with tinfoil; place baking rack onto prepared baking sheet; set aside.

If desired, peel the sweet potatoes; cut off the pointy ends. Slice the sweet potatoes in half lengthwise, then cut each piece into wedges.

Place the sweet potato wedges in a large bowl and sprinkle the remaining ingredients over them. Mix well, making sure each wedge is coated with oil and spices.

Arrange the sweet potato wedges in a single layer on the prepared baking rack. Bake for 30 minutes then turn the broiler on and bake for another 3-5 minutes or until they are well-browned and crispy. Keep an eye on them so they don't burn!

Cool wedges on the pan for 5 minutes, and then serve at once.

I didn't have a baking rack, so simply greased a baking sheet and layered the potatoes directly on that. It worked, but the downside is that I couldn't bake them as long nor get them crispy that way. They were still delicious, though!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Autumn's Arrival

The calendar says that today is the first day of Autumn, but summer weather is continuing. As in, it was 90 degrees yesterday! Yet the trees know what time of year it is and are slowly beginning to change color to yellows, browns, and reds . . .


The Autumn wildflowers are blooming in beautiful and diverse array, and the summertime flowers are going to seed . . . .

White Snakeroot
This is blooming all over in our woods this year, and I love its little white flowers.

Goldenrod 

An unidentified wildflower going to seed 

There is a lot to enjoy outdoors this time of year! The chickens think so, too, as they scratch around underneath the trees hunting bugs, seeds, and anything else they can scrounge up . . .


The garden is nearly finished, and it is time to dig the potato crop which Mom, Leah and I have been working on. After I dug more again last evening, we're now 2/3's of the way done! Some of what's left, though, needs to wait awhile longer as the plants haven't died back all the way yet.

There is a lot of dirt to move to get all the potatoes out of the ground!

Nearing the end of the row

And the result of an evening's work . . . more potatoes ready to cure before being stored

One of the last few things in the garden . . . a fall crop of green beans that Mom planted. They are just starting to flower so it won't be long before we'll have fresh green beans again!

Besides the outdoor work, it has been busy indoors, too, with things such as making lots of soap (and some other products as well like bath salts and sugar scrubs yesterday.)

Before we left on our trip, this is what the soap curing shelves looked like . . .

Around 360 bars curing 

Since then, the shelves have emptied out as soaps finished curing and are then boxed up for bringing to the market or selling online . . .

Part of the display at the market

And then I've been busy making more so the shelves are filling all up again!

Making more soap 
(Though not a current photo, it was taken back in August for business purposes. :)

In spare bits of time, I have also been reformatting all of the posts on my other blog Follow in His Steps. Several months ago, I revamped the site and didn't realize that one 'side-effect' of that was the formatting getting messed up on all of the old posts. So one by one, they are each being reformatted and reposted. As of now, I am well over half-way done and only have about 50 posts left to do!

It has been nice to squeeze in a bit of reading most every day, too. And with new books! During the Berean Call conference in August, they gave out a coupon code for a significant discount on many of their materials. With that, Dad and I each added quite a few books to our libraries. Some of these I had already read before, and the others I have now skimmed through, and so far, they all look really good.

Most of the ones I got

Currently, I am reading The Power of the Spirit  by William Law/edited by Dave Hunt, and it is excellent. The book was originally written in the 1700's, yet what is shared in it is still so true for today. It is very deep, powerful, insightful, and convicting!

On a different note, when going through photos, this recent one was found that I had forgotten to share. Do you remember the doe with the injured leg that had come up close to our house? Well, she came back, and this time with her half-grown fawn . . .


It was neat to see them!

And to bring this somewhat random post to a close, here is a bit of cuteness shared specifically with some children readers in mind (yours Sarah R. :) who like seeing photos of our animals :) . . .


Our baby rabbits are growing!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

"Are You Shining for Him?"

Sharing today on my other blog Follow in His Steps . . . .

"Last week when reading in the devotional My King and His Service by Frances Ridley Havergal, this powerful and convicting poem really spoke to my heart. The questions it asks are poignant, probing, and really made me think. 
I hope it will be an encouragement to you as well to shine our light for Jesus Christ brighter . . . to love Him and serve Him with all that we are . . . if we have stumbled and shone dimly, to begin now to shine bright for Him . . . to be bold in love in sharing about our Savior and His saving gospel with others . . . to serve with a joyful heart . . ." read the rest here.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Rocky Mountains Day 4 // Our Last Day

Part 1, 2 and 3 can be read here: Rocky Mountain Trip Day 1 // Colorado Bound and here: Rocky Mountains Day 2 // Hiking and Horseback Riding and here: Rocky Mountains Day 3 // Old Fall River and Trail Ridge Roads


Early in the morning on our last day in the mountains, we were busily packing everything up and loading the car. Excited to begin our adventures of the day, but a little sad to know that we would also be leaving the beautiful Rocky Mountains in not very many hours. We had really loved our time so far! The days had been so packed full that it felt like we had been there longer than just two days. :)

And this last morning was going to be full, too! We headed out into the beautiful morning as the sun was spreading its golden rays across the valleys and mountains. Shortly after entering the national park, we saw a small herd of elk right next to the road . . .

A bull, cows, and calves

Lounging in the morning sun . . . notice how he only has one full antler? The other had broken off near the base.

We continued on our way to the Bear Lake Trailhead again, only this time, we were going to take a different trail than we had before . . . the one to Alberta Falls. We were both really looking forward to this!

On the way, we made one more stop for wildlife when we saw these two Mule Deer does . . . .

Happily browsing right next to the road

A beautiful morning in the Mountains - we were blessed by having lovely weather our entire visit

Once we arrived, it was time to begin the short 1 mile hike to the falls!


Since we were out fairly early, there were very few people around, though as we were taking our time enjoying the sights along the way, eventually some other hikers caught up with us.



The groves of Aspen trees were really pretty

The trail comes up close to the road for a brief bit and look what we spotted through an opening in the trees . . .    another bull elk and cow . . . .


Then we realized there were more right close to us in the trees! As in, maybe 15-20 feet away. It was so neat to see them up so close! Though with the Bull Elk right there, too, we were cautious as this big animal can be unpredictable. As we watched the Elk, there grew to be a little crowd of people around us who were able to enjoy them as well . . .


One of the cows and calves . . . isn't the calf adorable?

The cows and calves moved on, and then the Bull Elk crossed the path right in front of us, too, and continued on into the trees . . . .

What a beautiful animal!

Once they had ventured a ways into the woods, we continued on . . .



We really enjoyed this hike and had so much fun together! Talking, laughing, stopping along the way to enjoy different sights and sounds . . . it makes me smile just thinking about it. :)



As we walked, we could begin to hear the sound of the water and smell its freshness . . .

Looking way down to the water flowing below . . . we're getting closer to the falls!

Before long, there it was . . . the beautiful Alberta Falls.


Leah taking a photo with her phone to send to Dad and Mom




I loved being down by the water, climbing on the rocks, listening to the water, and thoroughly enjoying it all!


We spent quite a bit of time here soaking it all in and had a lot of fun climbing up the rocks to the top of the falls . . . .

Climbing higher!

Leah on her way up


The top of the falls

A fun couple took our photo for us here. We ended up talking with them quite a bit, including when hiking together for awhile later on down the trail.

The sign for the Falls (and where this trail ends) . . . where we had climbed up to was the rocks in the top of the photo.



The sun was rising higher and our time left in the mountains was slipping away, so we made our descent and drove over to Sprague Lake . . . .

 I don't think I could ever tire of views like this!

It was gorgeous there! We loved our walk around the lake, though there was a bit of a subdued air as we both knew it was our last walk in the mountains. While we made our way around it, we kept an eye out for Moose as occasionally they are spotted here, though we didn't see any.



Farewell Rocky Mountain National Park!

As mentioned in the earlier video, a couple we had talked with had seen Bighorn Sheep at Sheep Lakes that morning, so on our way out of the park, we stopped there one last time hoping to see some before we left. We scanned out across the valley with not an animal in sight.

Then I turned around and what should I see up on the hillside, but a herd of Bighorn ewes and lambs! They were so neat to see! Slowly they ventured down the hill, across the road, into the valley below, and then headed to the lakes to lick the mineral.

One of their brief moments of running. The little lambs were so cute!

Across the road and heading to the mineral lick

Eventually, the time came when we had to leave the park for good and begin the drive home. We had planned to split the return trip up into two days, stopping over somewhere in Kansas for the night.

Making our descent out of the mountains

One of our last looks before the mountains faded from view

As we drove, Leah and I had a lot of fun talking about the last few days and enjoying the beautiful scenery. We decided to try to get a little further home that first day than originally planned, but as we didn't have a good hotel picked out for there, Dad and Mom were so thoughtful to look online and find one and then make reservations for us. So when we pulled into the parking lot at nearly dusk, a nice room was all ready and waiting for us.

We ended up staying up late that night looking at all the photos, watching the videos, and reminiscing! What a very special trip we had together as sisters! We SO loved our time in the mountains . . . but most of all, we loved being able to enjoy it together.

At Dad and Mom's great suggestion, the next day we made a bit of a detour and drove southward to Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Refuge in Kansas. It was pretty there! And we saw quite a few different bird species . . . .


Cattle Egrets by some cows

After a couple of hours there, we headed out one last time eagerly anticipating arriving home . . . .

Leah filling the car up with gas . . . again. :)

And finally . . . back to our home state!

We were very thankful we had the opportunity to take this trip together! The Lord blessed it so much giving us beautiful weather, very special times together, protecting us and providing for us when our car broke down, and much more. It was such a refreshing time to be able to get away and enjoy so much diversity and beauty in His creation!

Now we have our hearts and minds full of the many wonderful memories and glorious sights from our time in the mountains . . . plus all the 1,000 plus photos and the videos to continue to enjoy!