Sunday, December 29, 2013

Winter Fun

The kids like riding Amelia's 4-wheeler in the snow and on the ice. Here they are stuck at the bottom of the hill. Guess we need four wheel drive.

We tried a little ice fishing when the weather was nice.

Amelia and Elijah enjoying a break from sledding.

This was Allison pretty much the entire time we were out in the cold. She's not a winter person.

Sledding down the hills on the motocross track is great fun! If you're good and can stay in the middle of the track you'll get some air from hitting the face of the jump the wrong way.

If you miss you'll end up on the weeds like Ethan.

Amelia was our distance winner, she must be just the right weight to sled a long ways down the track.

As I write this it's -10 wind chill and Mark is out riding. Brrr, someone's dedicated. :) 

Christmas 2013

I'm so thankful that this Christmas we had a healthy family and that everyone could make it to all of our Christmas parties! Last year we only made it one because someone was always sick. I've tried to pick a few pictures from each gathering to highlight. We hope you all had a wonderful Christmas as well!
All the Van Den Broek's got together earlier in December I decided now was the time to get a family picture in case we had a repeat of sickness like last year. :)

 This is all seven of my dad's siblings.

You had to be there, but the funniest part of the evening was Elijah opening Uncle Ken's gag gift, an old used toaster. Poor Elijah looked so disappointed. :( With a little encouragement he went over and stole Uncle Ken's good gift and gave him back the junky toaster. :)
Next was Mark's side. We always have lots of good food and fun with all the cousins. This is a picture of Grandma and Grandpa with all the grandkids except Jackson. They are sitting with two tractors we had refinished for a Christmas gift.
We ended up having our family Christmas early because of church being cancelled due to snow. The kids were excited to open stockings and a family gift.
We've had several knock out games already!
Christmas morning.

Last but not least we got together with my side. Elijah is helping make a appetizer plate.

Grandma and Grandpa with the grandkids.

Our attempt at a family picture using the timer.

Ethan and Amelia were our entertainment for the evening. Ethan played Jingle Bells on his bells and Amelia played a couple Christmas songs on the piano.

Baking Day

We all look forward to making cookies and other Christmas treats each year. This year was another success! Although it would have been nice to have our cookies last more than four days. :) Next year I'll be putting stricter daily limits on them.
Allison all dressed for the occasion. Except her lack of pants, she's funny. :)

Sugar cookies make me Happy, Happy, Happy!
The kids love to pick out which shapes to cut out. We will set the cookie cutter on the dough and let them cut out the cookie.

 Elijah's in charge of getting more cookie dough ready to roll.

We also made several batches of party mix.

Elijah is showing his cousin the ropes of cookie decorating.

We decorated well of 200 sugar cookies that day.

Sunday, December 22, 2013


Once again I've fallen behind in posting. Here's a little review of November. 

Elijah and Anton are finishing up their harvest. Here Elijah is "dumping at Cargill". For you non-farmers out there the corn comes out the bottom of the semi hopper into a pit. Like Elijah is pretending to do with the register vent. 

Anton's transition from summer to fall.

Amelia asked to take some pictures around the yard. Here's one she took of our trees.

Amelia also took this one of Anton and the kitty. Along with around 50 other kitty pictures. :)

Mark hurt his knee which gave him some back pain. The kids were happy to do a little physical therapy with him.

Allison being silly .

Allison reading to her favorite kitty, she calls bebe.

My kids will pick at anything. So I thought I would take advantage of this habit and have them peel off a boarder. They did great, and helped very well. Someday I'll get around to finishing this painting project. :)

Ethan finished his first year in 4-H this fall. At the end of the year you can turn your record books in for different awards. Ethan applied for the Jr. Sheep award and won both the county and club awards in that division. He was glad to get a premium check for all the "boring" paperwork I made him do. :)

We had our first measurable snow this month. Yes it took me longer to bundle her up than the time she spent outdoors.  

We missed all but one Christmas party last year because of sickness. This year we're working harder at keeping up our immune systems. Mark took it a step further and made himself a "smoothy" which he takes a spoonful full of each day. It's made of white onions, fresh garlic, fresh ginger root, horseradish, hot peppers and apple cider vinegar. It really didn't taste that bad, considering. It helps to eat it like a dip on a cracker. :) 

Always a favorite tradition - setting up the Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Pressing Apple Cider

Last year we had enough apples on our trees to make ONE apple pie, this year we had more apples than the past ten years combined! What better thing to do with an over abundance of apples than make cider! We borrowed a cider press from a friend and spent three evenings pressing cider. In the end we ended up with around 25 gallons of cider. If you're in the market for a good cider press, click here. This is the one we've used for a few years, it's quick and easy to use. Be sure to get the motor, it's well worth it.

First step, while you set up the pressing "station" have your kids pick lots of apples. It's more fun to pick the ones up high. :)

Once your tote is full give them a good rise. The apples Amelia is washing are Yellow Delicious, our personal favorite for making cider. We've also used, Red Delicious, Minnesota Jonathon, Jonathon and Granny Smith???. The Yellow Delicious are the sweetest. If you like a nice mix of sweet and tart try mixing Red Delicious, Yellow Delicious and Jonathons.

Next step is to grind the apples for pressing. We toss them in as fast as we can and this motorized grinder keeps up. I suggest waiting until the end of the season when the apples are sweetest and juiciest. Make you pies early with the apples are a little on the tart side and more crisp. 

When the basket is about 3/4 full, pop on the lid and start pressing. If you don't have an abundance of apples press in small amounts you'll be able to get more juice. (We use a mesh pressing bag inside the wooden tub, it saves a lot apple chunks from getting in the cider.)

The juice starts to flow, now is the time for the first sample of cider! This is Yellow Delicious cider, it starts out very light in color but quickly turns darker. The variety of apple makes a difference in what color the cider ends up being. 

Next we strain out any bits of apple that made it through the press. You can get nice, fine strainers at Brew Supply stores which will keep out all the foam and apple bits much better. We we didn't have that and ended up using our regular kitchen strainer this time, it worked fine. 

Finally, sit by the heater and enjoy and fresh cup of cider.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Living History Farms Field Trip

Last month I joined Ethan's class on a field trip to Living History Farms in Des Moines. I remember going there when I was in 5th grade and enjoyed another trip 25 years later with my son. We had beautiful weather and learned a lot. I would recommend going if you have the chance. We only had time for a few of the many exhibits they have.

Ethan's fifth grade class. 

Our first stop was the 1700's. At this time in history Native American's were living in Iowa in homes like this. It's made out of cat tail leaves which were stitched together. They had two homes, a winter one and summer one. The winter one ;'was tucked within the trees at the bottom of a hill to protect from cold weather. Their summer home was on top of a hill and more open to let a cool breeze in during the warm months. They mainly ate corn and beans which they dried and made soup out of for winter meals. They also hunted and gathered berries.  

Next stop, fast forward 100 years to the 1800's. This picture is of a pig pen. It's basically a pit in the ground with a few logs as walls. A far cry from today's modern climate controlled sheds!

No offense, but these were the ugliest hogs I've ever seen! They were homely, long haired and looked like  wild hogs.

This was a typical barn in the early 1800's unlike the Native Americans the pioneers kept livestock. 

Next was 1850. (She was making fried green tomatoes). Settlers had small homes with a loft which doubled as the children's bedroom and storage room. Land in Iowa at that time cost around $1.75 per acre (if I remember correctly) and windows were $1.25 per pane. Now I realize why a glass window was such a big deal in an episode of Little House on the Prairie. :)  

Next was the 1900 House. By this time they were canning fruits and vegetables to eat during the long winter months. I think this is the point in time that I could actually live in. Earlier in history where they just ate dried food all the time just wouldn't work for me. :) 

Another picture of the 1900 farm. This is the chicken shed and windmill.

A small section of the big red barn had a shop in it. These were some of his tools. 

Ethan and his friend checking out the hogs from the 1900 farm and comparing them to those of the 1800 farm. (They looked much better!)

Ethan riding Corey the Combine.

Our group, color coordinated in blaze orange.

We had a short time after lunch to visit the drug store and blacksmith. Above is a picture of the ingredients they kept on hand to make medicines. Every wall in the building was lined with rows of ingredients to make medicine.

This gal is showing the kids how they made pills. 

Last stop was the blacksmith. He showed us how they used hot coals to heat the metal so it could be bent however in needed. Blacksmiths spent much of their time fixing plows and horse shoes. 

We didn't make it to church, but I thought it was pretty so I took a picture.