Friday, December 31, 2010


We hope you have a Happy New Year!  Our New Years Eve started with our first snow of the season - imagine that. It is beautiful. All our wild birds are in a feeding frenzy but they have plenty of food and water.

The domestic birds, guinea fowl and Dots and Ameraucana hens (aka Easter egg chickens), are all in their warm sheds with plenty of food and water. I even got 11 eggs today -- on a very cold, below zero day.

As you can see, Country Life Tales has a new look. I wanted to change it up and I intend to use personal seasonal pictures as the masthead of the blog. I hope you like it as we go along.
This what we woke to this morning; check out
the thermometer by double clicking on the pic

And then the sun came out! Winter is sooo
Four years ago we were invited to view the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena with friends Kevin and Juliet who live on the parade route. It was a wonderful experience to see and smell the floats in person --- yes smell, all those flowers are fragrant. We'll be thinking of you, Kevin and Juliet! Hope it isn't too cold this year.

We are looking forward to 2011 and all the adventures it may bring. We hope we will be hosting some of you as you travel to or through Nebraska.

       HAPPY NEW YEAR Dear Friends!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Guest from China Made Our Christmas Extra Special

We were honored to have a young guest from China, Tian Shi, with us this Christmas. She is a high school junior exchange student who is living with my step-daughter, Sandra, in Denver.  We had a marvelous time with this lively, lovely, engaging, young lady. Her communication skills and English are exceptional...she started learning English in third grade. She delighted in the country especially our Dots and the wild birds and squirrels that we feed. We look forward to another visit from her before she returns to China at the end of this school year in the spring.

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Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

I hope you enjoy the spirit of the holidays and the wonderful family and friends with whom you share them.

We are waiting excitedly for our guests to begin to arrive today. I have been busy baking in preparation for the holidays ---the house smells wonderful and every counter and container is full not only for the holiday here but as gifts to send home with our family.

2 Ultimate Caramel Apple pies and just out of the oven kolache's

curried cashews
                    Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Chair With A View


We noticed that the bird feeders were emptying fast. Then one day as I happened to look out the window, I saw a squirrel sitting atop one of the feeders that Mark hung from a light gauge wire to prevent the squirrels from robbing the feeders. How did the squirrel get atop the feeder?

Then as my young friend, Lucas, and I were sitting at the french doors watching the birds together, we witnessed the squirrel walking out onto a very thin branch from which he jumped onto the high wire, turned upside down and hand over hand climbed to the feeder. See the pictures below:
The squirrel just landed on the wire after jumping from the tree

Here is the acrobat doing the upside down hand over hand approach to the bird feeder 

There he goes --- down to the feeder

Success! Until I opened the door and scared him off.


A comfortable chair from which to watch the birds

Having a drink while watching the squirrel eat

We were watching this Robin and House Finch drink water when the finch flew away...

There he goes...

A banking turn and he's gone.  WOW!

My happy friend, Lucas, after birdwatching! Isn't LIFE grand?

There is a boutique in downtown Burbank, CA called SkyBluePink. When I saw this sunset, I thought, sky blue pink! It was spectacular in person. Wish you were here.

NOTE: From Dr. Oz's REAL AGE newsletter...(Did you know? A tiny daily serving of chocolate can improve your blood pressure.)
The question is, how do THEY define 'tiny'?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Quilt Legacy

By Bessie Pravecek

By Fern Edwards

As I made the bed this morning and folded the quilt at the foot of our bed, I began thinking about quilts in my life. Quilts are one of those things in the American culture that tickles the homey cozy feelings in most everyone.
I laid out some of the quilts in layers so you could enjoy the variety. Beautiful craft that represents hours and hours of work. I'm so proud to be the guardian of these practical works of art.
Last Christmas as we were driving to North Carolina I was surprised to see quilt squares painted on barns throughout TN and NC. They were just beautiful. One traditional quilt pattern square was painted on the hay loft door so they were sizable, simple and dramatic. A WOW in the landscape that inspired a warm feeling.

Our home has many quilts both in use and on display that were made primarily by Mark's Mom, Fern Edwards, some from his aunts and we have one made by my Mom, Bessie Pravecek---all of which I treasure.

My Mom made one of these for each of her 5 children in their favorite color; I love it!
Mark's Mom made quilts for years. Her hands were always busy doing handwork, crocheting or quilting; creating something beautiful for someone. She was of the generation whose lives included hard physical work taking care of her family of eight and her home without modern appliances, fast food, or even shopping convenience. Yet she found time to make beautiful quilts for family--- immediate & extended. It makes me wonder about our modern world where we have all the conveniences but still don't seem to have time to do things we want. Anyway, quilts were not only beautiful but practical items that were needed and used by people to stay warm.

This is so Fern, it's her favorite color and pattern. Just beautiful workmanship. A treasure.
My mother-in-law's funeral was one of the most touching & beautiful - yes beautiful - funerals I have ever attended. Family brought their handmade quilts & crocheted afghans made by Fern to the funeral and the church was lovingly draped in her years of handiwork -- the communion railing, the front pews, the choir loft railing, and around the altar. It was beautiful...and a lovely tribute to the artistic expression of one talented woman. It spoke volumes to those attending and wonderful memories were stirred. I felt so proud of her that day; she would have been amazed by the demonstration of love for her.

This is my personal favorite from Fern. It is a light summer weight quilt. She used worn out clothes from her family for the fabric. In those days, people reused items as a matter of practice...unlike these days when "Green" is a new concept and people have to be reminded and trained to reuse items rather than just throw away.

Any room with a quilt just seems more welcoming and cozy, don't you agree? I'm lucky to have these handmade quilts in our home. They are reminders of the wonderful women in my life who have passed on. What a lovely legacy.

(NOTE: I would love to hear from you. Please write your comments to my blog below. I've made it easier to leave a note. Please give it a try! Thanks for visiting.)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Whimsy At Christmas

I love Christmas for many reasons but one is that people bring whimsy into their lives. I drive down the country roads and many of the farm places are modest and functional most of the year but at Christmas the places are decorated with whimsy and it is delightful to see. Just seeing the lights and decorations brings a smile and is a way to share the spirit with neighbors.

We've decorated our home.  It is the first time in 11 years that we have a Christmas tree. Last year we weren't home so we didn't decorate at all. This year we are celebrating the holiday at home with family coming to share the season. So we got a real tree --- I love it, needles in the carpet and all!

When we lived in California, we had a very small living room so we didn't have a tree. Instead I decorated the top of the buffet with a snowman village. It started small and over the 10 years grew into a full fledged village. Check it out....

Here is the village; closeups to follow

Ice skating on the village pond
Wedding at City Hall

snowmen reunion

Every village has a 'big fancy house' and this is it

The Holly Shop Downtown

Waiting for a friend

Mice are skating on the barrel

Our little corner of the village memorializing our December 26th anniversary

Our parents made Christmas magical for the five of us kids. Mom always put up whimsical decorations and I can see some of her vignettes in my mind today.  Our Dad bought the tree close to Christmas so it was always a little 'Charlie Brownish' but beautiful in my young eyes. We all helped decorate the tree with favorite ornaments and silver tinsel after Daddy put on the lights.

We opened gifts on Christmas Eve. We didn't have a fireplace with a chimney so the five kids were sent to the basement after supper about the time Santa was expected. We'd go downstairs straining to hear what was happening upstairs.  We'd hear the doorbell, Mom opening it and a big 'HO HO HO'. The floors would creak as Santa would move through the house to the room where the tree was located. We'd hear low talking and laughter but nothing clearly. Marcine, our big sister, would encourage us to keep quiet. Finally, after an eternity, the basement door would open and we'd be invited upstairs to see what Santa brought. It was almost too much excitement for a kid to handle.

We would then attend midnight services at church which brought the true meaning of Christmas to the holiday. It was a big deal to stay up late and attend church at this late hour and it added to the magic of the day. The nativity scene and singing Christmas carols were the best.

I remember asking my Dad one year whether Santa was real. He took me outside and showed me the sleigh tracks and the reindeer hoof tracks. OMG! They were really there in the snow. I was so relieved and excited.  Years later I asked him about the tracks in the snow and he told me he pulled a sled over rabbit tracks. He said he was prepared to answer if I asked him about the shoe tracks --- of course, they would have been Santa's.

One year when our Dad was in the hospital recovering from surgery, our maternal grandparents, Grandy and Grandma Hattie, came for Christmas to help Mom with us kids.  We were all in the kitchen after supper doing dishes or messing around when the older kids were doing dishes and suddenly there was Santa looking in the kitchen window and waving. Our gifts from Santa were outside the door that year and we didn't go to the basement. That was the most exciting Christmas ever as a child.

Unlike today, our Christmas gift giving was modest. We'd get some practical things like socks, an outfit or new pajamas and slippers, and maybe 2 significant toys including a doll for the girls. The year the older three kids got bicycles for Christmas was such a big deal that even I was excited. Every Christmas Grandy and Grandma Hattie gave us a shoebox of mixed nuts in the shell and an orange. I loved their gift and looked forward to it.  Boy, have times changed.

One year and only one year, I got something I really wanted and asked for which were ice skates. I had sprained my ankle that year and it was weak so the doctor recommended swimming and ice skating to strengthen it. I got the skates for Christmas and swimming lessons the next summer. But I remember never being disappointed and feeling like the luckiest girl in the world on Christmas Eve.

Christmas day was always spent with aunts, uncles and cousins so it was a very full house of great food and fun.

There is a deeper spiritual meaning to Christmas that we each celebrate in our own way--- but I hope you have whimsy in your home this year --- after all, it is a part of Christmas.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. It is one of my favorite because it is about gratitude, family & friends, and FOOD - one of my favorite things!  We were delighted to have my sister Sandi here to share this holiday with us. She drove here from Denver on TG day so we had homemade chicken noodle soup and homemade bread sticks for supper on TG.

the imperfect but tasty breadsticks - they are more uniform when the bakers haven't been drinking wine!

rolling out the sourdough breadsticks - yum!

Thanksgiving supper of fresh chicken noodle soup & sourdough breadsticks Plus fresh peach pie
Then on Friday we had the full TG meal which Sandi helped prepare. It included turkey breast (there were only 3 of us and we still had plenty of leftovers. The breeders have developed one strange bird with the huge breast.).  We had dressing (recipe from Wine Country newsletter called "Mom's Dressing") and it was a hit for the 2nd year, baked green bean casserole (thanks to Martha Stewart )made from scratch including the fried onions that came from our garden, butternut squash and carrots with a cocoa/cayenne topping, and cranberry/blueberry relish finished off with peach pie! Yum!

We played Sequence and finally a good ol' family favorite - 500 Rummy. Boy we get excited over that card game.
Sandi got the tour of the ranch, met the Dots for the first time, gathered eggs and got to pet a couple hens including "Goldie" who was so happy to see me since they are now free range again once we got the flower beds planted with bulbs and covered with chicken wire. I have to admit it is fun to have an animal like you enough to come running when you enter the yard. Sandi is taking several dozen eggs back to Denver.  When I gardened this summer, I put up produce with the idea of sharing with her. As you can see, she benefited from the bounty of the summer!

Eggs, homemade bread, homemade ketsup, jams of many flavors, pickles, pickled beets, marinara sauce and cherry pie; endamame, corn on the cob and some meat locally raised round out the bounty she is taking home.

At the Dot House gathering eggs

Checking out one of the Dots nestled in for lay'n

TG day opened with below zero temps and high wind but today it is 52 balmy degrees and no wind. Lovely!

The guinea fowl are enjoying the sun

The guineas have all bonded and during the extremely cold nights the babies hide under the wings of all the guineas not just mom because they are getting too big to fit just under mom. The babies are big and strong enough to fly now so they share the upper "penthouse" of the guinea shack where it is warmer and they have the mirror. Even with the cold weather, they continue to be very active during the day patrolling around the perimeter of the ranch.

Project Feeder Watch has begun and I submitted my first count just before Thanksgiving. Our feeders and trees and birdbath were filled with birds since the very cold weather. We have cardinals, chickadees, white breasted nuthatches, juncos, goldfinches, house finches, Harris sparrows, house sparrows, bluejays, flickers, and robins.  Some of these birds will stay all winter and others will move on and return in the spring. We'll see other types of birds who will winter here and some who are just passing through. We are still seeing geese flying V's over the ranch. It seems so late but it has been so mild - no snow yet this year in central Nebraska.

Here are pictures of some of our regulars........
The Northern Flicker that my cousin warned me about; she has one that put many many holes the size of a CD into the siding of her garage - so they are a nuisance. We'll watch him closely. I've only seen him at the water so hopefully he doesn't take a liking to our house. Mark saw him harassing our guineas outside their house so that won't fly at all. Anyone have flicker solutions?
white breasted nuthatch enjoying the bath

Cardinal in tree; one of 4 pairs living here

                           Enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend!