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Summer Bounty: The tomatoes turned on!


For the first time in a LONG time, we had good tomatoes this year.

IMG_7301 (1024x768)A few we ate fresh in several meals of Caprece Salad.

IMG_7437 (1024x768)More were consumed in Veggie-go-round.

This is yellow squash, zucchini, new potatoes and tomatoes.

Drizzle with olive oil and herbs and bake until the potatoes are tender and delicious.

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A few I canned into stew tomatoes.

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The rest I froze whole in Ziplock bags. No need to wash them or anything. Just throw them into a bag and toss them into the freezer. When you’re ready to make sauce or salsa or something, just fill your sink with hot tap water and toss the frozen tomatoes in for a couple of minutes. Then fish them out and you can slip the skin right off!

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I use a big butcher knife to chop them up while they are still mostly frozen and toss them into my pot. They”ll cook down into fantastic pasta sauce.

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Here’s the recipe I use:

Summer Love Pasta Sauce

12 cups chopped tomatoes

1 cup chopped onions

2 cloves minced garlic

2 tbsps fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried

1 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper

2 bay leaves

2 tbsps red wine vinegar

1/2 tsp pickling salt

Throw it all into a big pot, Bring to a boil over high. Reduce to boil gently uncovered, stirring occasionally for 1 1/2 hours or until it reduces down and thickens.

I let it cool and ladle it into quart-sized freezer Ziplocks. Toss it into the freezer and you’ve got sauce 😀

I have a GINORMOUS stainless steel pot so I usually double everything.

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Sauce on!

How does the garden grow? Slooooowly.

Lettuce Grow

The garden is started. At least partially.

On March 17, I planted spinach and lettuce. A week or so later Bryon planted onions and potatoes.

Grace’s peace garden is finally taking shape. Sort of. If you squint just right, you can make out the peace sign.

Peace Lettuce

A month later and we are beginning to see progress from the sown seeds but have yet to be able to reap a harvest. Soon. Very soon.

Today I started herb seeds: rosemary thyme, dill, chives, parsley, oregano, lemon basil.


Of course I had to clean out the greenhouse before I could even find anything to plant in.


I think it turned out pretty good.

I’m a FANTASTIC garden STARTER…not such a great SUSTAINER.

Let it begin.


Birthday, Birds and Basketball

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Here it comes, the October super post. Oops. Guess it’s November. See how that happens. Anyway, grab an iced tea and sit back.


Grace celebrated her NINTH birthday in October. We have had some giganitic birthdays and some small birthdays. Last year we had the first ever haunted trail for her birthday/Halloween party with more than thirty kids plus parents. This year we took it down a notch and had a sleepover. Fear not kidlets, next year the Haunted Trail is back on the agenda and it’s going to be SCARY! Some of the kids complained because it was not scary.

Trust me. We can DO scary. Just. You. Wait.

Sorry, Marah, you may have to go through in daylight.

Not to say there weren’t a few scary moments during the birthday party. Like the lead photo above. Or this…

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Somebody LOVES him some sleepovers. Bryon always wants to sneak outside Grace’s bedroom window, stick this face against the glass and scare the crap out of them but I won’t let him. Maybe when they are teenagers. Or have already watched Salem’s Lot which is the very reason I can’t sleep with the blinds open.

As a former teacher, I know that free time is your enemy with a room or a houseful of kids, so I planned some activities.

I bought shirts for them all and they decorated them with Sharpies. This is a cool activity Grace learned at summer camp and we’ve used it several times since.

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They had some very creative results!

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I also bought little pumpkins and they each carved one.

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It was messy but they had fun. Grace’s molded in two days.

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Gotta love a vampire pumpkin.

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Of course they stayed up ridiculously late. They also slept upstairs in the playroom for the first time. Did I mention the playroom is DIRECTLY over our bedroom? Yeah, we heard every thump, bump and giggle. Which were many.

Nine is a pretty good age.

Grace got this chair and a few other things. IMG_4486 (768x1024)


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My hens are old and lazy. I’ve been getting one egg a day until recently. Now I get NO eggs a day. In August we tried incubating some eggs and ONE hatched out. You can read that post and see the chick’s birth here.

Then I bought it some friends. That post is here.

A few weeks ago, Bryon and Grace gathered up the new chicks for me and tossed them in with the old to get acquainted. They still aren’t exactly friends, but we haven’t lost any of them. I left them cooped up together for the first three days. The first night after it got dark, I went to count and make sure they were all back in the coop together.

Yep, twelve chickens. Just like I had hoped.

I shut the coop door and said goodnight.

About an hour later, Bryon hollered from the bathroom that I had a chicken squawking outside the window.

Erm, not I didn’t. I cooped them all up.

I went outside to investigate. Nothing. No squawking. No chicken.

I went back to the coop and counted again. Yep, twelve chickens, just like I… wait a minute. Where’s the little Buff Orphington? The one chick we HATCHED? Not there.

I have thirteen chickens.

We all three looked with flashlights for the little buff but no luck. I hoped it had roosted in a tree somewhere and would make it through the night, because there was nothing else to do. I wasn’t going to leave the coop door open for it and leave all of the rest of them in danger.

The next morning, the buff was trying to get into the old coop and was very happy to join it’s friends.

They’ve all made it back into the coop every night since.

I guess we both learned a lesson that night.


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Grace has become quite the little basketball player. A couple of the Niangua dads have been coaching them now for two years and their little team has really improved.

They even have REAL uniforms now which makes them much more intimidating than they really are.

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We told Grace we’d pay her a buck a basket. This last session of six week ball we paid out a total of five bucks. I know it will get more and more expensive but it seems to be a good motivator. I was never very good at sports. I’m glad she is and is interested. The good thing about playing sports in a small-town school is if you are on the team you WILL get to play. Every game.

We have a break until January (a short basketball camp in a couple of weeks) then it’s back at it.


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For Halloween this year we went on a Haunted Float with our friends Lynsey & Brayden. It was the first year for the canoe rental place to host the float so it had a bit to be desired. The Type A part of me had an entire list of suggested improvements for them but I resisted. Not. My. Baby.

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I had to repeat that to myself a few times.

On actual Halloween we all three dressed up and hit the good churches and neighborhoods. I made an unfortunate shoe choice so I waited in the car most of the night until it was time to go eat Chinese food.

Still, I looked good. We all did.

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IMG_4415 (1024x1024)Grace and I participated in the Niangua Red Run. I walked. Still I totally beat Grace and the chick with the stroller so WIN! Bryon had to work or he would have been there too. The run was a fundraiser for playground equipment. One boy in Grace’s class one the whole thing! He’s smokin’ fast!

We are NOT smokin’ fast. Or at least I am not smokin’ fast.

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This may be why.

Chicken Challenges


You may have seen my video of our experience hatching incubated eggs for the first time. If not, you can see it here.

Since then we have dispatched our very mean rooster. We were all tired of living in fear of the thing. Grace and Nana were especially joyous to see it dead. In fact, Grace wanted Bryon to remove its inch and a half long spurs and drill a hole through them so she could wear them on a necklace as a trophy.

Bryon and I agreed that was a little too Walking Dead for us but as redneck parents we were also strangely proud of her for thinking it.

Yeah. We’re weird.

We put the rooster in a pot to boil for a satisfying dinner of chicken and dumplings.

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The rooster got the last laugh though and burned up in my pot while we worked outside. We ate Chinese that night.

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Unfortunately, that single little chick was the only to hatch out of the dozen fertilized eggs. The rooster has one lone progeny to carry on for it.

Ten to one it’s a rooster too.

Since there was absolutely no way I was going to raise one lone chick, I stopped by the Cackle Hatchery in Lebanon to buy it some friends. I hadn’t placed an order in advance. Didn’t even know if they would have any chicks available. I just showed up.

Now if you didn’t know it, the pecking order is a real thing. You can’t just mix different aged chickens together and they all get along. My little chick was already a week old.

Lucky for me they just happened to have three Welsummers and three Easter Eggers—two breeds I’ve never raised before. Oh, and they were exactly one week old. How amazing is that?


I brought home a box full of cute and fuzzy chicks to join the lone ranger. There was a bit of pecking, but they settled in quickly and all was right with the world.

Last weekend they finally outgrew their brooder box so Bryon helped me move the chicken tractor into a semi-permanent, anti-critter reinforced cage. They liked the new space. A lot.

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Then two mornings later, one of them didn’t get up and scurry to the corner when I opened the cage. It was suddenly lame. I’ve raised baby chicks for the past ten years and have not lost a one to injury or disease. Predation sure. But otherwise, I’ve had no problems.

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I separated it from the flock because they had already started picking on her. Survival of the fittest and all. I set up Grace’s outdoor critter cage for her. For some reason she just couldn’t stand. I didn’t see any visible injuries and she didn’t squawk when I stretched her legs out to check for problems

Google was no help so I stopped by Cackle Hatchery the next day and quizzed the experts. Apparently there are about five million chicken ailments and they all have the exact same symptoms. None of which explained my lame chicken.

The next day I called my vet. Our vet is the kindest, most patient, tell-it-like-it-is country vet. He suggested that perhaps in her exuberance she’d sprained a groin muscle or the chicken equivalent and was too sore to stand. Uh, okay.

He also suggested feeding her some hardboiled eggs for a few days since she would love them and they had lots of good proteins and vitamins in them.

Cannibal chicken it was then.

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Now, five days later, she’s beginning to stand again. She still gets her legs tangled up sometimes, but I’m feeling more hopeful about her recovery.

All of the rest of the chicks seem fine. With the troubling exception that one of the pullets (young female chickens) has a disturbingly large comb beginning to grow on its head. Now, I don’t know if you saw the Only in America episode where Larry the Cable Guy was actually at the Cackle Hatchery sexing chickens, but I’m pretty sure Larry is responsible for this one.

Larry, if this pullet ends up being a rooster…I’m sending him to you.

You’ve been warned.

Life in the Big Cedars is still good.

But it’s better without a rooster.

A Christmas Greeting

Merry Christmas from our family and Life In The Big Cedars.

It was a big year around here…I was going to recap it but realized it’s all right here in the blog if you really want to see it. In a few weeks, I’ll send off for this year’s blog book and another year will be past.

I don’t know what will come in 2013, but I’m expecting big things.

We’ll chronicle it right here.

Christmas blessings to you!


Holy What Happened To August, Batman?

Wow, time sure does fly. This has been a busy month. You couldn’t tell from this blog, however. Sorry for the delay. I’m on it!

Here’s your Medley Update:

I’ve been writing like a mad woman this month. I started my second paranormal romance, Reap & Redeem on July 13 and as of tonight, I have 42,166 words. That’s halfway to my goal of 80-85,000 words. If you’d like to hear about my first rejection letter and validation as an official writer, you can check out my Author Blog here.

On the writing front, I also got voted in as President of Ozarks Romance Authors for 2013. To be honest, I was the only one who wanted the job, ha!  I’m very excited for all the opportunities it will bring in the coming year beginning Oct. 6.

This month I spent some time with my girlfriends at Lake of the Ozarks. We read, we ate, we talked, we ate, we relaxed and we ate. It was a blast.

Bryon, Grace and I went to a Springfield Cardinals game one of the 100 degree nights at the beginning of the month. We lasted about an hour before a big storm started blowing through, and we bailed before we got soaked.

Grace started the 2nd Grade with her teacher Mrs. Lollar. She’s doing great and really likes school.

Grandpa had an art show in Marshfield at Art On The Square.

We all went to see our friends Lynsey and Brayden pull their lawn tractors at the Marshfield Saddle Club. You might be a redneck…

And finally, Bryon spent all day last Saturday helping put together this cool new playground equipment  at Grace’s school.

This weekend we started working on cleaning and staining the back of our log-sided house. We got the other three sides refinished last fall. Log siding seemed like a MUCH better idea when it was all shiny and new. My dad was right about the siding being a big hassle to maintain…don’t tell him I said that 🙂

I should have taken a before pic of the back of the house, but my brain cells are fried. Hopefully, I’ll have an after pic in a few weeks.

I’ll be in Rolla all this week for the first of my big university drives this year. One good thin about that is I hope to get some writing done each of the three nights I’m up there. Of course, it seems as though every time I PLAN to write, something happens. Apparently, I can only write on stolen time.