Grass Fire Gets A Little Too Close

Wow. I’ts been a long time since I’ve posted. I haven’t really had anything interesting to say or show you.

That is, until yesterday.

Wednesday started out like any other.

I lounged around in the morning, then prepared to go to the bank in the afternoon to pick up a new check card.

I opened the front door of my house around 2 p.m. to see this:

Fire!

I dragged my husband out of bed (he works nights, so sleeps during the day), rounded up  my cellphone, purse, novel-writing bag, two dogs, and loaded everyone and everything into the Suburban so we could evacuate.

By the time I left the house, it looked like this:

Fire!

The dogs and I headed out of the neighborhood, but stopped to shoot a few more pictures:

From A Distance

I contacted friends from church, and they let me house the dogs in their kennels. I don’t know what I’d done without them!

When I came back, the police weren’t letting anyone in the neighborhood, so I waited at the top the road to find out where the bus would drop of the kids. This was around 3:30 p.m.

Roadblock

We saw several fire trucks from surrounding communities, including Slaughterville, Little Axe and Purcell. Steve said he saw even more firefighters out, including Dibble and Pink. Thank the Lord for these men and women who risk their lives to save our neighborhoods!

For the record, on a normal day, seeing more than one or two cars on the road is considered high traffic. This amount of traffic was nuts!

Anyway, while I waited anxiously at the top of the road, my husband remained at the house, watering the yard and getting a couple other items at the house ready to bug out, if necessary. While he was there, he had the once in a life-time experience of having a Chinook helicopter drop a load of water on his head. Er, nearby…

Chinook!

You can see the blade of the helicopter to the right of the sun. And that’s the water falling out of the basket carried by the helicopter.

I believe that basket of water put out this lovely little blaze right across the street from our house:

Fire Near The House

Sometime after this, I picked up the kids at a nearby gas station. One of our neighbors called us to let them know where the kids were. Thank the Lord!

We finally returned home around 9 p.m. — just in time to put the kids in bed!

I took a few pictures today of the areas that burned:

Scorched Land

Smoldering TreeYou can see more grass fire photographs in my Flickr account.

Painting The Sky

Sky Background Upside Down

I’ve decided to be brave and started my new painting. It’s the one of the beautiful tree with a hidden surprise. My art instructor suggested I use ultramarine blue at the top and cerulean blue at the bottom for the sky — both mixed with white, of course.

Yes. The canvas is upside down.

I started painting the sky in class. I mixed together one of the blues with a generous helping of white, then added a dab of Acrylic Glazing Liquid to increase the open time (in other words, make the paint dry slower, so I could blend). But it just wasn’t working.

So, I brought the canvas home and tried again. I added a bit more AGL and some water. This just made a mess.

Ugh!

Then I decided to read the bottle. I’m sure you can tell where I’m headed.

Apparently, if you’re wanting to increase the blendability of your acrylics, you need to use a 1:1 ratio of AGL to paint. Oooooo! Guess it helps if I use enough, huh?

So, once I figured that out, the colors blended together beautifully. Now, time to draw the tree…

Shepherd Pie Recipe

Shepherd's PieI am itching to try new recipes lately, so when I saw Shepherd Pie on another website, I thought I’d give it a whirl. Most of the ingredients are items I have on hand and it didn’t look hard to make.

So, I started by gathering the ingredients:

  • 4 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 8-10 oz frozen peas and carrots
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1.5 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/4 cup of worstershire
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 1 brown gravy mix
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Directions

Mashed Potatoes
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes and cook until tender but still firm, about 15 minutes. Drain and mash. Mix in butter, finely chopped onion and 1/4 cup shredded cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste; set aside.
We always like to add extra butter. Yes, we like a little potatoes with our butter…

Frozen Veggies
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add carrots and cook until tender but still firm, about 15 minutes. Drain, mash and set aside.
I cheated and used the microwave in bag frozen veggies. And I didn’t mash them up either. That just sounded yucky.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C.)
Hamburger
Heat oil in a large frying pan. Add onion and cook until clear. Add ground beef and cook until well browned. Pour off excess fat, then stir in flour and cook 1 minute. Add ketchup, worstershire, brown gravy and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
That’s my son stirring the hamburger mixture. He’s so sweet!

Hamburger
Spread the ground beef in an even layer on the bottom of a 2 quart casserole dish. Next, spread a layer of peas and carrots. Top with the mashed potato mixture and sprinkle with remaining shredded cheese.
Oops! Forgot to add shredded cheese on top. Oh well!

Top of Shepherd's Pie
Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Overall, I was disappointed. Perhaps I expected more of a pot pie flavor? It was edible, and fairly pleasant tasting — just not what I wanted. That said, tonight is leftover night — it’s this or spaghetti. Hmmm…

P.S. Just found out CW absolutely loved this stuff and can’t wait until we make it again. Go figure…


Enabling Family Computer Safety Protocols

keyboard

In retrospect, we’ve been pretty lax around here with computer security.

The kids are allowed to use our computers, including my laptop which I keep in the living room, the desktop upstairs in my office and the laptop that my mother gave us and that we allow the kids to use on the kitchen table.

The kids are allowed to go to sites like SpellingCity.com and GamesGames.com. They are not supposed to stay on the computer for extended periods of time.

I admit though, after being cooped up in the house last week with all the snow, I turned a blind eye to the computer time.

snowy-pile

This situation became clear last night after I sent my son to bed. On a whim, I went back to his room to check on him — and discovered him surfing a game site from the top bunk. With the computer that’s supposed to be on the kitchen table. Somehow, he’d managed to sneak the computer out of the kitchen while I was sitting right there in the living room. Ack!

So, I’ve taken the computer away. And I’ve changed all the administrator passwords on all the computers in the house and setup individual accounts for both kids. I’ve turned the parental controls on in those accounts and set them so that the the kids can only login to their accounts from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. They’ll have no computer time on Wednesday and can be logged in between noon and 8 p.m. on Saturday.

We have church on Sunday, so I disabled their accounts from logging in that day as well. There’s more important things to do on Sunday.

snowball-fight

I’ve also turned on all web filtering I could find and setup the game rating system.

Let the little stinkers try to sneak a late night surf fest now…

Cake Ball Finale

I have wanted a double boiler for years. My mom had one when I was growing up and she used it to melt cheese and chocolate and other goodies I don’t even remember.

I’ve seen them in stores, but their either too small — or come with a bunch of other pans I already have.

But after researching the cake ball making process, I realized I already have a double boiler.

Double boiler parts

You just take a sauce pan like my husbands potato pan that you see above (he uses it to make his world famous mashed potatos), and a glass mixing bowl that will fit inside the sauce pan without touching the bottom.  You’ll also want to make sure the sides meet up snugly to keep water out of the bowl, since water will ruin the candy coating.

That said, I pulled out my handy-dandy double boiler and filled up the pan about half way with water and put it on the stove top to boil. Once the water started bubbling, I put the bowl on top and added the almond bark to melt.

Coating in boiler

I just let the water boil and stirred the candy until it looked like this:

Melted Coating

Warning: Before we go any further, I must warn you. I started out using almond bark to dip my red velvet cake balls. This was a bad idea. The almond bark was gloppy, messy and ended up looking like crud. Like this. So don’t use almond bark. Instead, use the candy coating wafers or other coating that is made for dipping. It works out  much better.

After I realized the almond bark wasn’t working, I added several candy coating wafers and it started behaving much better, but was too thick. When the candy is completely melted, you’ll notice that if you pick up a spoonful and pour it back into the bowl, it kind of glops off the spoon. That means the coating is too think. So what you’ll need to do is add about a tablespoon of shortening. That will thin the coating so it will work better.

Once the coating is melted and pours smoothly off the spoon, it’s time to pull one of your wax paper lined cookie sheets full of cake balls out of the freezer.

Note: The recipes I followed all suggested that I freeze the balls for at least 6 hours. I actually started the cake ball process on Monday and put them in the freezer. But with all the snow, kids running around the house cooped up and other random craziness, I wasn’t able to start dipping them until today.

How to dip the cake balls

I read in several places that the trick to dipping the cake balls is to tap the spoon. You drop a ball in the coating and use a spoon to pour more coating on top. Then scoop up the ball and tap the spoon on the side of the bowl to remove the extra coating.

I had a problem with this the first time I made cake balls.

See, I’m a night owl,so I dipped them around 3 a.m. Since my kitchen is near a couple of bedrooms in our house, I really didn’t want to spend an hour tapping a spoon on the side of a glass bowl.

Instead, I used a small, quick side-to-side shaking motion to shed the extra coating. I also used the side of a second spoon in my other hand to scrape the bottom of the cake ball spoon and made sure to leave a pool of coating in the spoon behind the cake ball (which I held on the end of the spoon) to pour down the side of the ball as I gently tipped it back onto the cookie sheet. This helped fill in any holes in the coating left by the spoon.

Here are the pretty cake balls:

Funfettie cake balls

Would love to hear your cake ball stories!