December 25, 2011

Our 2011 Christmas Letter - Merry Christmas!

Happy Holidays 2011 from the Meek Family 
Greetings to our dear friends and family,

2011 was another busy year with new phases, BIG changes and transition.

Our family survived Joseph’s case of senioritis and we all enjoyed his achievement as he graduated from Mars Hill Bible School in May.  We were glad to have several family members come be a part of his graduation.  His senior year of high school was a busy one with the same cast of characters Soccer, Show Choir and Chorus.  His class also made a spring break trip to New York, NY.  He had a very busy social calendar this past summer.  He spent many nights with friends; we think to prepare us for being empty nesters. He began his first year of studies at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas.  We wish him well as he starts his college experience and pursuing future dreams.

Judy has increased her work to full-time for Leigh, King & Associates.  College expenses are now a reality so we hope to survive physically and financially the next 3/12 years. Hint…Joseph we want you to graduate on time!  She continues to enjoy part-time searching for antiques.   In addition to Facebook, Judy has entered her second year as a blogger.  You now can catch up on our family, farm, and news at  Judy finally convinced Charlie to spend a little time on our farm instead of traipsing over AL, NE MS and TN shearing critters so we planted a small garden this year.  While the planting was later than desired our efforts yielded a pleasant harvest of radishes, corn, okra, tomatoes, field peas, and lima beans. The rabbits enjoyed the green beans so next year we will have to add a fence to curtail their appetite.

Well…the possible budget cuts that we always mentioned to our close friends each year, as concerns, became a reality this year.  Congress cut the RC&D Program on April 15th for which Charlie had served since Sept of 1996.  So with only a 24 hour notice the run with RC&D was over and Charlie had to work other programs.  The Agency offered early retirement due to the cuts and Charlie felt it was time to say goodbye to USDA and try something else.  August 31 was his last day and he turned the page to new dreams.  In July Charlie celebrated 30 years with SCS/NRCS so it was a good run.  Post retirement Charlie is VERY thankful that he is able to work part-time for the Northwest AL RC&D Council.  2011 continued his 6th year of service as the minister of the Hawk Pride church of Christ in Colbert County; it is Charlie’s desire to assist this congregation and community in an expanded capacity.  The work at Hawk Pride has been a JOY with new additions and restorations in 2011. Hawk Pride has a Facebook page so please visit them via social media to see how the work is doing. As Charlie has struggled with some nagging health issues (Epstein Barr Virus and two oral surgery events,) the brethren at Hawk Pride have gone the extra mile in helping us in our time of need including driving Charlie to doctor appointments, house cleaning, feeding the sheep, delivering loads of hay for the sheep not to mention encouragement and prayers.  At the time of this letter Charlie is recovering from oral surgery and some side effects of the medications he was taking for the surgery.  The shearing side-business continued in 2011 (5th year) facing the similar dilemma of scheduling appointments for too many clients (sheep, llamas and alpacas) and driving lots of miles.  Thanks to having the assistance of another shearer (Bret, that we mentioned last year) the miles were less than past years and production has been more efficient with two people shearing on most sites. 

We wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season!  May God Bless each and everyone!

Merry Christmas,

Charlie, Judy and Joseph Meek


Merry Christmas, everyone!!

Judy :)

December 24, 2011

Christmas Decorations 2011

Christmas decorations this year were much more simple.  I pulled out very few decorations and filled in with greenery from our farm.  The feel is more open and less cluttered.

I simply added a ribbon to the front door wreath this year.  The ribbon is just woven in and around the branches...very simple yet effective.

Pine branches were added to the mantel with small antique ornaments in a crystal dish with the nutcrackers.

We added a "Noel" banner this year made of red ticking, burlap and ribbon.  You can purchase one like this at my cousin, Diane's Etsy Shop.

We filled our dough bowl with pine cones from a tree that fell on the back of our farm.  A simple branch of pine with a little tuft tucked in the pinecones was all that was needed for a great dining room centerpiece.  The jar with greenery is filled with our trimmings left over after decorating.  This makes the pine and cedar handy for including with gift wrap tied with twine.

I thought the tree needed more garland than just our cranberry beads.  This year I added rope as a second garland.  It suits our lifestyle and keeps our tree more casual.

This is a closeup of the rope and beads.

Enjoy your Christmas Eve to the fullest!

Judy :)

December 21, 2011

Christmas With Nature

Saturday afternoon, my husband and I had chance to walk to the back of our small farm to cut greenery for decorating our home for the holidays.  I find myself more and more wanting to simplify not only Christmas, but also my entire life...maybe this comes with approaching a half century in age.  Last year I wrote about Holding Off Christmas and after reading my post again, we have pretty much stuck to the same Christmas schedule this year.

Low Fog - Early December 2011 Morning

I wanted to bring more of nature into our decorations this year.  We used to purchase a "real" Christmas tree every year and the smell was so wonderful.  It soon became so much easier to have an artificial tree but I really missed that pine scent.  We walked to the back of our property and clipped boughs of cedar, pine, and privet berries.  The smell was wonderful and the greenery in our home looks very festive.

We had some sweet help on our walk from our Craiglist Kitties.

See our kitten, Percy, playing under the pine boughs?

I will post a few pictures of our decorations later in the week when I am home during the daylight to take pictures.

Have a good week as you finish your last minute Christmas details.

Judy :)

December 15, 2011

Coconut Cake

Tracey, who blogs at Notes From A Cottage Industry -- one of my favorite 25 blogs, had a recipe for My easy-peasy-tastes-like-scratch version of Coconut cake.  I love coconut cake.  Tracey's blog post was published around the time I was already considering the Real Food Pledge so I decided to make this recipe from you can call this recipe the "Not So Easy-Peasy But Tastes Better Than Scratch Coconut Cake."  :)

Actually, my mother-in-law made the absolutely most wonderful Coconut Cake from scratch even down to the grating of the real coconut and using the fresh coconut milk to moisten the cake after it was baked.  My mouth begins watering just thinking about it.  I have the recipe for it and plan to someday try to bake one just like hers.  But until then, this recipe is really. really. good.

I decided to use the White Cake recipe my mother-in-law used in her "real" coconut cake.

First, toast about 2 1/2 to 3 cups of coconut in the oven.  Tracey suggests 425 degrees for 5 minutes, then stir, and let toast for another 5 minutes.  This worked perfectly.

White Cake:

2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup shortening (I have been substituting Coconut Oil {which is a solid} and it works great with no Trans Fatty Acids.)
1 cup milk
3 eggs whites (or 2 whole eggs - which is what I usually use)
1 tsp of vanilla
1 Tbsp coconut flavoring

Combine ingredients in the order listed.  I divided the batter into three 9" pans (or you can do two 8" pans and cut into four layers as Tracey did).  I prepare my pans with cooking spray and then cut out parchment circles to fit my pans...cakes never stick to pans when parchment paper is used.  Bake at 350 degree for 25 - 35 minutes or until lightly browned.  Let cool in pans for about 10 minutes and remove to wire racks for cooling.

While the cake is baking, prepare your coconut filling.

The coconut filling is from The New Pillsbury Family Cookbook I received as a wedding gift in 1987 -- not so "new" any more.

Coconut Filling:

1/2 cup sugar
3 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups milk
1 egg
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp coconut flavoring
3/4 cup of toasted coconut

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt.  Stir in milk, blending until smooth.  Cook over medium heat until mixture boils, stirring constantly.  Boil 1 minute.  Remove from heat.  Blend a small amount of hot mixture with 1 beaten egg.  Return the mixture to saucepan, mixing well.  Cook just until the mixture starts to bubble.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, coconut flavoring and toasted coconut.  Allow to cool.

I used Tracey's Coconut Buttercream Frosting but made a smaller amount since I only made 3 layers:

3/4 bag of confectioners sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 Tbsp coconut flavoring
Milk to thin to desired consistency

Beat all ingredients together adding milk to desired consistency.  For this recipe, I prefer the frosting a little thinner than most frostings on cakes.

Assemble the coconut cake:

Place one cake layer on a decorative plate.  Pipe a fat bead of frosting all around the cake (great idea Tracey!) and fill the inside area with half of the coconut filling.  Sprinkle toasted coconut over filling.  Top with the next cake layer and do the same using the remaining coconut filling.  Top with final cake layer and frost with the remaining buttercream.  Sprinkle with remaining toasted coconut.  Just as Tracey states, you do not need to frost the sides because the cake is already just gorgeous.

This cake is a wonderfully moist coconut cake.  I love the creamy texture of the coconut filling with the cake and buttercream frosting.  Add a cup of coffee or a tall glass of milk and you have the perfect dessert for any holiday or birthday.

Enjoy!  I did.

Judy :)

Disclaimer:  Although this recipe is made from scratch, it is not a "diet" recipe!

December 9, 2011

And The Winner Is....

Ruffles and Relics who said, 
"I usually put my tree up Thanksgiving evening when all the kiddos are home.. "

I will be sending the winner an email.  You can visit the Ruffles and Relics blog here.

Thank you to everyone for participating in the giveaway.  I truly appreciate each and everyone of you who stops by occasionally to read what our family has been up to.

Thank you also to White Flower Farmhouse for all of their help organizing and setting
up this giveaway.  Lori and Lisa, you are the best!

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

Judy :)

December 4, 2011

Giveaway: White Flower Farmhouse

**This Giveaway Is Now Closed.**

Because this blog has finally past its 10,000th page view and because I love everyone of you for stopping by here from time to time, I am having a giveaway!  AND I am excited to be able to offer you a gift from White Flower Farmhouse, one of my favorite internet stores.

White Flower Farmhouse is owned by Lori who also blogs at Frugal Farmhouse Design.  She certainly has a gift for turning everyday items into wonderful decorative pieces.  She finds vintage and salvaged items and resells them at White Flower Farmhouse.  It is like having your own personal shopper at estate sales and antique malls!  I, personally, have purchased a dough bowl and antique Christmas ornaments from her shop and absolutely love them.  The dough bowls sits on my dining room table all year round with a constantly changing assortment of items inside to be displayed.  The Christmas ornaments remind me so much of the ornaments we had on our tree when I was a little girl...just beautiful!

Lori even makes her packaging beautiful!  Her prices are fair and her inventory is gorgeous.  Her store also sells farmhouse tables and other items created from salvaged barn wood.  I just wish I lived closer to New York where I could pick up one of those farmhouse tables.  Lori's sister, Lisa, ably assists her with the store and the White Flower Farmhouse Blog.  Lisa has been a joy for me to work with while planning this giveaway for you!  Be sure to visit both of these blogs.  They are two of My Favorite 25 Blogs listed on the side.  Enjoy the following photos from her store:

Today I am giving away this vintage simple style pitcher.  It is silver plated and made by Keystone Wear E.P.N.S.

 Lori was even kind enough to photograph the pitcher all ready for the festivities!

You have two chances to enter the giveaway:

1.  Leave a comment below telling me when you put up your Christmas Tree or when you plan to put up your Christmas Tree.  I haven't put mine up yet!

2.  For a second chance, if you want to be notified of updates, follow me here on this blog (see the side) or follow A Meek Perspective on Facebook and then come back here and leave me a comment letting me know you did.  If you already follow, just leave me a comment stating that you do.

**Be sure (if you leave an anonymous comment) that I know how to get in touch with you!  Thanks!**

Sorry, I can only ship this gift to addresses in the United States.  The giveaway will stay open through 6:00 pm Thursday night.  I will post the winner here on the blog sometime on Friday.  Be sure and check back on Friday...especially if your comment does not open to an email address.  I really want the winner to be able to "win"!

Good luck!

Judy :)

December 3, 2011

Craigslist Kitties

We have been without a barn cat since August when our barn cat, CC mysteriously died.  She was a wonderful mouser...keeping our barn and basement clear of all types of "varmints".    She was always on the lookout.  In the three months we have been without her, my husband began noticing a huge increase in our mice population.

He began looking on Craigslist for free cats or kittens in our area.  He found an ad posted by a family who lived on a farm but was selling out and moving to town.  They had a cat and 5 kittens that needed a home.  The ad stated that she was a great mouser but they couldn't vouch for the dad -- he was a "no count" wanderer.

Three or four weeks later we decided to contact this family.  We went out on a Saturday to see how many "mousers" they might have left.  We found a mama cat and two kittens waiting for us on their front porch.  We definitely wanted the mama cat since she was an "experienced" mouser, but wasn't really interested in the kittens.  We petted the mama cat and she was very friendly and sweet...then we made a mistake.  We reached in the kennel and picked up the two kittens - one gray and the other yellow.   They were both so soft and sweet and warm...there is nothing like sweet kittens.  The family mentioned their daughter had become attached to the little gray kitten, so before we knew it, we were headed to the truck with both the mama cat and the orange kitten.

These cats have been so much fun.  They are very attached to each other and are happiest curled up together.  The mama cat was already named Lou Lou.  I tend to all her "Mama Lou" (sounds like a dorm mother's name, doesn't it?).  The yellow kitten did not have a name yet.  Our son, Joseph, was in from college for Thanksgiving that week.  He decided that since it had "red hair" then it needed to be named one of the Weasley boys' names from Harry Potter.  He landed on Percy and so our yellow kitten is now Percy.  Percy is extremely playful and plays with the rugs, string, empty boxes, his mama's tail...anything that catches his eye.  Percy is a little more fearful of the world on the farm than his mother is.  We have had to rescue him from climbing trees twice.  Hopefully as his size increases his bravery will too.

Percy likes to keep me company outside the kitchen window while I'm washing dishes.  How sweet is that?

Judy :)