a nice warm up–bees are happy!
December 31, 2010, 3:25 pm
Filed under: bees | Tags: , , , , ,

Happy New Years. I have a lot to catch up on with the blog. Alas, it’s been a busy time, and then I got a new computer. So, I’m a bit behind.

We went through a big cold snap. It was nice to have a white christmas, and to see that the chicken heater lamps work, but it’s also nice for a warm up. The chickens ran around outside, the goats had fun, and we all watched the ice rink melt.

The best part though, was this…
The bees came out!! Whew. It was a amazing to see them. They seemed a bit confused, they were all swarming all over the place. But they are alive, and there are lots of them. I checked the honey stores earlier before it really warmed up, and they seem to both have lots there. So that’s good.

dec 31 bees out to play


chocolate gingerbread cookies with a twist
December 18, 2010, 2:54 pm
Filed under: cookie, recipe

they're wreaths, ok?!

I think we have a great selection of christmas cookies in rotation (shortbread, chocolate mint ones, rum balls, sugar cookies, pecan sandies, date filled, etc). However, there’s always the chance that you could be missing out on the greatest cookie ever, so one needs to experiment. This year I made some chocolate chip pretzel cookies, which were kind of ‘meh’. They could be good, they were certainly ok, but not worthy for christmas rotation.

And so I found these. They ARE worthy. Very worthy. You should try them!! Even if you’re a crappy decorator like me, folks will love them! I think the next batch I will up the spices a tad. I like the royal icing with lime on them. Didn’t try the chocolate or fennel seeds, etc.

Aarti’s garam masala gingerbread

3 cups all purpose flour, plus for dusting
2/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (1 1/2 sticks)
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup molasses


Add the butter to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle (or in a large bowl if using a hand mixer). Beat on medium-high speed until the butter is smooth, about 1 minute. Add the sugar and ginger; continue to beat over medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the egg until fully incorporated. Add the molasses and continue to beat until fully incorporated. Add the flour and dry ingredients in 2 batches and mix on low until combined and forms a sticky dough.

Divide the dough in half, wrap in waxed paper, and pat into 2 (1/2-inch thick) rectangles. Chill for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and adjust racks to the bottom and top half of the oven.
Line baking sheets with silpat. Lightly dust work surface with flour. Roll each portion of the dough into a 1/4-inch thick rectangle (if the dough becomes soft, chill for a bit in the refrigerator). Cut the dough with 3-inch cookie cutters, lay on the prepared baking sheets about 1-inch apart. Bake until the cookies are golden around the edges, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Decorate, as desired, with Chocolate Glaze or Royal Icing.

Garnish with toasted fennel seeds, dried rose petals, or silver dragees.

Chocolate Glaze:

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons corn syrup
3 tablespoons water
Combine all the ingredients and cook until the chocolate melts, about 1 1/2 minutes. Stir to smooth out and combine.

Royal Icing:
1 egg white
2 cups powdered sugar
juice from one half lime
water to get consistency right (if needed)

Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer over medium-high speed until it forms thick and glossy peaks, about 6 minutes.

city breakfast
December 18, 2010, 1:13 pm
Filed under: chickens, pittsburgh, restaurants | Tags: , , ,

The dude and i used to love to go out for breakfast. And there’s lots of good greasy spoons out there. We’d go to Jo-Jo’s, Pamela’s, in town, the Cole Cafe up in the north.

But then we got the chickens, and i just felt bad knowing that i was eating, no doubt, cheapie caged non-organic eggs. poor birds. And then, pancakes, well those are good sometimes, but not without real maple syrup. And what diner place serves that? Sigh. So alas, we’re left with no real regular options for a city breakfast out on the town.

Or are we…?

Aha….a good coffee place and a good bagel. Hey that’d work!

Our current fav is to head over to Lawrenceville to Cafe Voluto. It’s a nice place and they make a fine latte. Dude likes to get some brewed special thing or other, but I’m not really into that. No, I like the big cup of goodness where they make a design in the foam. for the bagels, well Pittsburgh is not great in this department. But the bagel factory is ok. So we do that. Presto, city breakfast. Yum!

i didn’t do it–goats in snow
December 14, 2010, 6:41 pm
Filed under: farm, goats | Tags: , , , ,

i didn't do it

Hard to believe a year has passed and we’re back in C-O-L-D weather. The animals are not too happy about it. I’m too cold myself to go out and snap some pics of the unhappy bunch, so here’s a look at last year. Sydney was so small!

I do need to get out there and make them a new wreath to munch on. But maybe when it warms up a tad!

This photo was taken on Dec. 30, 2009. Last year before Christmas we had temps in the 40s! Today it’s 12 with a windchill below zero. Yikes!

air quality and disease clusters in pittsburgh
December 13, 2010, 6:19 pm
Filed under: pittsburgh, utilities | Tags: , , , ,

Interesting series in the post-gazette about neighborhood disease clusters–areas of the region where diseases like lung cancer, heart disease and respiratory disease seem to be higher than expected.

mapping mortality post gazette

They created a cool map that shows where the big polluters are located. The city itself seems to have higher than expected numbers for all the categories, and the river valleys are particularly bad (due to location of power plants, but also wind current things involved too I think). I remember how dirty the sills would get in Lawrenceville, and the amount of gunky coal dust that came out when I was replastering a bedroom. You really do have to clean things ALL the time. And the layer of sooty stuff just comes right back. Gross. You can’t really imagine what it was like when the city was steel town.

Based on this map, it’s a good thing we didn’t stay in the city. Our particular neighborhood shows up BELOW national averages on everything. Is that because our area has more higher income folks living in it? Or what?