Thursday, December 29, 2011

When Are Blueberries Not Really Blueberries?

My family loves blueberries.

We keep a couple of beehives in a blueberry patch near us and part of the deal (other than having bees in a blueberry patch!) is that we get to pick blueberries for ourselves.  We get the exercise and together-time while picking blueberries, and we get to eat great blueberries that we know have grown pesticide free.  

Blueberries have been proven to be fantastically healthy!  

Here's a snapshot from of some of the health benefits of eating blueberries:

Blueberries have been shown to shrink cancerous tumors and prevent the development and growth of cancer.

Researchers have shown that blueberries reverse memory loss, and also improve physical coordination and balance.

Blueberries reduce cholesterol levels.

Urinary tract infections can be prevented by blueberries.

Blueberries help build strong bones.

Blueberries are low in calories, high in fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants.

Mmmm, this really makes you want to eat more blueberries!  

So it's time to look for foods that contain blueberries and get all these great health benefits.

...when are blueberries not really blueberries?

 When they're faked.  This video shows just how the food industry literally tricks us into believing we're getting blueberries in our foods.  


"You ought to have seen what I saw on my way 
To the village, through Mortenson's pasture to-day: 
Blueberries as big as the end of your thumb, 
Real sky-blue, and heavy, and ready to drum 
In the cavernous pail of the first one to come! 
And all ripe together, not some of them green 
And some of them ripe! You ought to have seen!" 
~excerpt from "Blueberries" by Robert Frost

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


McDonald's has come out with an ad that makes it look like its potatoes come right from this pleasant little farm and straight to your plate.  It's a new trend in advertising called "Farmwashing" that supposed to make giant companies (Walmart too) appear to just love the local farmer or producer.  Here's the McDonald's ad and you can read the rest of the story from Grist here.

You won't believe what happens to those potatoes after they leave the farm...
... and what is sodium acid pyrophosphate?

(I reposted this from an earlier date because I wanted my readers to have an opportunity to see it)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

A Merry Christmas to all from Fitzgerald's Family Farm!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Cookie Success!

Aren't these just the most beautiful Christmas cookies you've ever seen?

O.K.  So they're not perfect - maybe they're  a little messy, the edges aren't crisp and clear, but we love them.  Hey! They're kind of like me!

I have struggled with finding a good Christmas cookie recipe and when I wrote about it in a previous post, my friends, the Fords, whom I met through this blog because they live close, and they're retired military (like us) and they're working towards living sustainably, sent me their Christmas cookie recipe. 

It was perfect!  It tasted good, rolled out nicely, and has a simple ingredient list. 

Ford Family Christmas Cookies

1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 egg 
2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Beat together butter/sugar on low speed until light and fluffy. Stir in flavorings and egg, mix. Stir in flour/baking soda. Cover & refrigerate 2 hrs (or overnight). Roll dough 1/4" thick on lightly floured surface and cut out shapes, sprinkle as desired. Bake at 375 F for 7-8 minutes or when edges are golden brown. (Dough is best if warmed slightly before rolling.)

I took the recipe for the cookie icing from the McCormick website: 

Colorful Cookie Icing
1 cup confectioners' sugar
3 to 4 teaspoons milk (this wasn't quite enough)
1/2 teaspoon McCormick® Pure Vanilla Extract 
3 to 4 drops McCormick® Assorted Food Colors and Egg Dye

We had so much fun baking and decorating them.  Thank you, Fords, for giving us a new family tradition!  

My next baking project is peppar kakor cookies.  These are the real deal.  My Swedish friend even sent me a bottle of Swedish light baking syrup and a package of bikarbonate so that I can make them properly!  

Happy Baking!   

Don't forget to hop over to the Homestead Revival Barn Hop

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Rechargeable Batteries Are The Way To Go

When Christmas shopping, you sometimes find that you just can't get around buying a gift that requires batteries.  

So you see those big packs of batteries are on sale and grab a pack.  


You'll find yourself replacing those spent batteries every time you go to play with your new toy!

Instead, grab a pack of rechargeable batteries and and a battery charger.  

I found myself replacing the 4-AA batteries in my older camera every couple of weeks.  I'm terribly guilty of forgetting to turn it off and it was eating batteries!  So I thought I would kick in the extra money for rechargeable batteries and a charger.  

I'm sure glad I did!  I've recharged this same set of batteries at least 15 times and they're still going strong.  I've much, much more than made up the cost of buying new batteries.  The rechargeable batteries seem to last much longer in the camera and I haven't had to find a way to get rid of all those toxic, spent batteries.  

The charger I have works for both AA and AAA batteries.  You plug it into the wall and when the lights go out your batteries are charged.  I found mine in the big box store back by the electronics section.  Different brands cost between $11 and $15 for the charger and four batteries.  

These rechargeable batteries work so well for me that I plan to never buy regular batteries again!    

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Christmas Card Gets To Its Destination

This is the kind of thing I love about living in a small community. 

I'm pretty sure that in larger communities the post office wouldn't have the time or resources to do this.  

"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."
~ the inscription found on the General Post Office in New York City

Monday, December 19, 2011

Russian Teacake Cookies

There are a lot of names for this cookie, but we've always called them Russian Teacakes.  My family has made these cookies at Christmas time for as long as I can remember.  I didn't think my children would be crazy about them because it's not the usual overload of cloying sweetness, but this is one of their favorite cookies!  

It's traditional that we have to chop the nuts with this antique nut chopper that was given to my mother by my great grandfather.  I wrote a blog about this neat little machine a little over a year ago - here.  The kids sometimes argue over who gets to do the chopping!

The batter is quite stiff.  The mixer really groans while I'm mixing it. 

Then we roll them into 1-inch balls.  You can place them closely together because they don't really swell or spread.

The finished product is buttery, nutty, slightly sweet, and oh, so tasty!  

Russian Teacakes

1 cup soft butter
1/2 cup sifted confectioners sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2-1/4 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup finely chopped nuts (I use walnuts)

Mix butter, sugar, and vanilla.  Blend flour and salt and stir into butter mixture.  Mix in chopped nuts.  
Chill for at least one hour. 
Preheat oven to 400-degrees.  Roll into 1-inch balls and bake for 10 -12 minutes until just slightly browned.  
While still warm, roll in sifted confectioners sugar.  Cool.  Roll in confectioners sugar again.   

Makes between 2-4 dozen depending on how large you make the balls and how much batter the kids eat while you're rolling them!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Uncle Sam Wants You to Raise Chickens

WW I Chicken Poster

Mother Earth News via The Happy Homesteader had an online article about raising chickens in municipalities and suburbs.  

The story discusses how people who want to raise chickens sometimes have to fight for the right.  But, in 1918, everyone was encouraged to raise their own chickens!  It kind of points out how our culture has changed, doesn't it?  

I loved this 1918 poster so much I couldn't help passing the story along.  You can read the entire article here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Steelers Rooster

I ordered 5 Golden Lakenvelder Pullets in March and ended up with 4 pullets and, we suspected, one rooster.  As he grew we suspected he was a rooster.  One evening I caught him testing out his rusty, raspy crow.  Yup, he's a rooster!

We're going to see if he stays gentle... if not, he goes in the pot.  It's frightening to own a rooster that might injure people - especially children.  

If he is a good boy, he gets to stay.... and we've already picked out his name.  He's black and gold, the colors of the Pittsburgh Steelers, our favorite football team.  He has a beautiful head of deep black feathers.  So we've decided to name him after the Steeler's Safety, Troy Polamalu!

Pittsburgh Steelers Logo

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Search For the Perfect Sugar Cookie Recipe Continues...

All I want is a sugar cookie that looks good, tastes good, rolls out and cuts easily, and doesn't have a ton of crazy ingredients.  No luck so far!

I tried making the Sugar Cookie Cutouts from the Kraft foods website yesterday.  They tasted fantastic because they had cream cheese in them.  But even after chilling for an hour the dough was still very sticky and impossible to to lift after we rolled out and cut it.  

We ended up just rolling the dough into balls and flattening them to bake.  The kids didn't care - they still loved decorating them!

Cookies are made of butter and love.  
~Norwegian Proverb

Don't forget to go over to the Great Holiday Barn Hop!

Friday, December 9, 2011

First Deer

About 7 a.m. this morning, my son shot his first deer before school started.  Our little "hunting" dog, Petey, (ha ha) was looking out back and started barking at the shapes he saw moving around.  The next thing I knew, John was yelling for me to "get the gun!"  I told him he had to have his dad help him because his dad has the doe license and our son is being hunter mentored by him.  His dad set him up, they went out, and John shot his first doe.  

It was a quick, clean shot... great job John!

(John took off his orange vest while the picture was taken)

Monday, December 5, 2011

City Fix

I love, love, love, living in the country and raising my kids, gardening, raising animals, hiking, etc. etc.  However, every once in awhile I need a city fix.  I like to shop (not necessarily buy) at the malls and get a look at the latest fashions, sit at a cafe and people watch, eat restaurant foods different than what are offered in my small town (I had a steak and stilton salad... mmmm), and go to a show or other cultural event.  

Our city of choice is the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area because that's where my husband sometimes works.  We know it well, and the free museums, the history, and the beauty at our nation's capital are a bonus. 

Photo: National Mall,

We've just returned from a whirlwind trip down there with plans to meet people from his work (what a nice group of people!), get military IDs updated, see a show, Christmas browse, and go to a work party with my husband's company.  The company party was at Baldwin's Station in Sykesville, Md. -  one word about that - wow!  I'm going to try to make Baldwin's puff pastry wrapped asparagus.  My kids also got to see the top-notch Liberty High School showing of A Christmas Carol in Eldersburg, MD.  The trip was a hurricane of activity in two days.  We didn't even get to see our friends from when we lived down there because we wouldn't have had proper time to spend with them!

Baldwin's Station
Sykesville, MD

One evening, we took our children to see Shear Madness at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.  Shear Madness is a comedy mystery with up-to-the-minute humor (and lots of references to recent news events) that lets the audience solve the crime.  The cast improvises during the play to fit the script to the audience's responses.  The show is "shear" fun and the kids were enchanted and entertained.   


While it's wonderful to live life as a country mouse, I do occasionally love getting a taste of the "fancy" with the city mice!

Without culture, and the relative freedom it implies, society, even when perfect, is but a jungle. This is why any authentic creation is a gift to the future.
~Albert Camus