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Angel Eggs

Angel Eggs

Are you interested in a new family friendly science project to help celebrate the Easter holiday this year?  We are mad about earth friendly projects that cater to kids of all ages around here and  Angel eggs are a great way to teach your kids how to make all natural food coloring.  Plus, this dish is so pretty, it always takes center stage at the Easter dinner table.

In addition to being fun for kids, its a healthier option for the littles and its good for the earth.  Plus, the ingredients can be found right in your local grocery store, so its an easy project for busy moms.

Formerly known as deviled eggs (we’ve changed the name for obvious reasons), angel egg filling and dyes can be prepared a few days before your Easter dinner (just add 2 tbsp. of vinegar to each dye to make them last longer in the refrigerator).

 

Grocery ingredients

Grocery ingredients

Your Farmer’s market grocery list:

4 Beets  (red and pink)

Turmeric (orange)

1 bag of Spinach or Spirulina powder (green)

Baking soda (blue)

1 head of Purple Cabbage  (purple)

How to make homemade, natural,  raw, vegan food dyes:

Create red dye by boiling beets for 10 minutes. Place beet water in ball jar and add 2 tsp of white vinegar.

Orange/Yellow is made by boiling 1 tsp. turmeric in 2 cups water for 30 seconds.  Let cool and add egg halves.  The eggs will dye quickly.  Note: If you would like a deeper shade, add 1/2 tsp. more turmeric and keep eggs in dye longer until you achieve the desired shade.

Green dye is made by boiling spinach for 1 minute and letting it simmer for 10 minutes.  Place green dye mixture in ball jar with 2 tsp. white vinegar.  Place egg halves in jar into refrigerator for at least 24 hours.  Note: The spinach green is a much earthier green than the dye you will find in the store.

Green dye can also be achieved by adding 1 tsp. of Spirulina powder to a quart of boiled water.  Stir in powder and let cool.  Spirulina creates bright green eggs.

Purple dye is from boiling purple cabbage.  Wash the cabbage, cut out stem and cut into large pieces.  Place in pot and cover with water.  Boil for 10 minutes.

Blue: Pour half the cabbage water into a bowl with ½ tsp of baking soda at a time until you get the desired blue hue.

Secret to making eggs peel so easily, your toddler can help you:  place a teaspoon of salt and eggs into pot of water. Turn on high until rolling boil. Boil for 10 minutes. Immediately pour out hot water and replace with ice cold water.

Place halved hard boiled eggs with yolks removed into each color (we use Ball jars with lids). Place in refrigerator overnight for the brightest hues.

We like this filling recipe the best:

6 egg yolks

1 tbsp mayo

1 tbsp of pickled relish

1/2 tbsp whole grain mustard

fresh grated Parmesan Reggiano

salt and pepper to taste

Sprinkle paprika on top of finished eggs (we use Emeril’s Essence to top them off)

Enjoy!

Angel Eggs

Angel Eggs

~~~

Easter is a favorite time of year here in the northeast.  The warm sun melts away the last moments of the cold winter days and daylight lingers just a little longer each evening.  But what we love most about this time of year is honoring our Lord and Savior.  As you are dropping the eggs into the food coloring, be sure to share the story of God’s precious gift with your littles.  It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

xoxo ~D

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Ode to Penny

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photo by Brian Ingram

Lazy days of summer were spent on the horse farm at the edge of our suburban neighborhood. School was finally out and all I wanted to do was get to the farm to claim my next adventure.  As I walked down the long dusty driveway, I breathed in the mix of fresh air and horses and listened for the whinnies of those asking for their morning feed.

The farm offered lessons, boarding and hourly riding excursions and there was always plenty of work to be done.  I considered myself cheap labor (free actually) for whatever chores needed to be accomplished throughout the day.

Looking out over the 50 acres of rolling hills, there were so many horses.  Too numerous to count.  Mares ran in the same fields as geldings, while ponies and large draft horses used the natural pecking order to eat the latest hay.  There was not a lot of organization, and it also didn’t seem to be a big deal that multiple mares were expecting their second or third foal.  Any foals born on the farm prominently displayed the ‘Chelsea Hill bump’; the softly rounded area of the face between the forehead and muzzle; a characteristic of all horses born on that farm.

After I helped out with morning chores, I would survey the fields and call out to Penny. The large grey pony would always whinny and trot my way whenever she heard my voice.  As I led her through the gate, I would let her know how happy I was to see her.  Her silvery grey coat glistened in the sunlight.  The white strip that began at the dock, widened as it crossed down to her stifle, then back over her gaskin to the hock as it joined the stocking was known as her “lightening leg” because it looked like a bolt of lightening zigzagging across her body. After a quick brush and adding another lead rope to her halter, I’d jump on her back and together we would leave the overcrowded paddock for the open fields so she could eat some fresh grass. I would dismount and pull up a seat on the soft ground as she devoured the fresh grass in front of her.  She kept one big brown eye on me as I shared with her the deepest secrets only a 12 year old girl would have.

Jeff’s mother Paulanna was the barn manager, and she would bring him along to work all summer.  Jeff and I were close in age and together we would hang out with the ponies between chores.  His little pony had a thick blond mane and a bad temper.  She pranced around like a little dancer with her shiny golden coat and would sneer and try to bite anyone who touched her.  Jeff thought that she was treated badly by the girl who owned her before him. But he somehow won her over and the petite golden mare only had eyes for him. They shared a beautiful bond, and just watching them together always made me smile.

The owner of the horses actually rented the land, and he was around, but he only spoke to his two daughters, Sonja* and Beth* and Paulanna. As Jeff and I helped out Paulanna, we would joke about how the girls were a little off, but I really didn’t care.  I was just very appreciative that they all let me hang around the farm, and I didn’t want to upset anyone.  At the end of the day, we were all just a bunch of kids who loved horses as we kicked around dust in the sweltering heat spending quiet afternoons together building obstacle courses, falling off our ponies  and laughing at each other.

There was an old man that would come out to work on the machinery from time to time.  The odd thing was he would sometimes want to hang around us kids.  We all just thought he was really creepy. When he would come looking for us, we would scream, run away and hide, laughing the whole time.

One day the old man sat on the front step as Sonja begged me to go in the house with her.  I reluctantly followed her inside and I looked around.  The walls were dirty plaster and the hardwood floors looked as if they had never been cleaned. Dirty dishes topped every surface, and the house smelled like urine from the dogs that lived there. Beth started yelling that her sister was in trouble as she held a wooden spoon and started banging an empty pot she found on the stove.  I watched as Sonja started to cry as her father pushed her up the stairs.  I turned away to find the dirty old man too close to my face calling me a pretty girl. I screamed and ran outside to let the warm sunshine melt away the weird moment I just encountered.

Later on the same day, some other girls from the neighborhood came out and wanted to ride the ponies to the convenience store across the street. Sonja told me that I wasn’t allowed to take Penny across the street.  Then I asked to take her pony, and she said that her pony was too tired.  As I watched Jeff saddle up and ride out with the girls down the long driveway, my heart sank. All I ever wanted to do was ride with my buddies.  I faked a stomach ache and asked Paulanna to call my mom to pick me up.

Days turned into weeks and Penny had started to show her pregnancy.  As I rode bareback out to the grassy fields, the creepy old man followed us along the path.  His incessant rambling made me nervous, and I asked Penny to trot.  All of the sudden, Penny kicked the man so hard in the stomach.  He fell to the ground with a moan.  I turned her around to ask if he was OK and he choked a raspy “I’m OK”.  As Penny and I turned back toward the open field, I smiled a little and quietly patted Penny on her silver neck. I never saw the old man again.

I returned to school and my busy fall schedule.  Winter turned to spring and somewhere along the line, Chelsea Hill Farm closed even though no one was surprised.  As the school year drew to a close, I realized I would never return to the farm.  I missed Jeff and the gang.  But most of all, I missed Penny.  The endless summer days of my teenage years were left with only dreams of horses galloping across open fields and memories of my silvery grey friend.

I did not know what was going on at the farm until I ran into Jeff 10 years later.  It turned out the owner was abusing his two daughters.  Someone had inquired about the girls at their school and he hurried his dysfunctional family to another town in the “middle of night” and took all his horses to auction.  Jeff also told me that the creepy old man that hung around had “serious issues”.  Everything seemed to make more sense to me now.  I felt so bad for the daughters.  I guess I was just too young to really know what was going on.  I was so immersed in the horses, that I failed to see the people around me.

As I grapple with the idea that something so evil went on right next to me, I remember the blessing. The day Penny seemed to have protected me from that man suddenly came into focus.   Its as if she ‘knew’ something was up and used her lightening leg to move the negativity away from us.

I think about Sonja and Beth every time I see a preteen in a dysfunctional situation.  I used to beat myself up about not being able to help the girls on the farm. But now I believe my experience has fueled my desire to encourage high risk teens.  A few years ago, I mentored a preteen and listened to her as she shared her hurts and how it affected her academically.  She was spending more time with a tough crowd and less time in school.  As I shared how my older brother was in jail at her age and how my parents messy divorce left me to seek solace in a four legged friend, she marveled how my story mirrored her life.  Then I told her “You have two choices.  You can either be part of the drama, or you can rise above the drama. But right now you should focus on you”.

After more conversations and multiple broken dinner plans, I prayed for her and let her go to tend to my young family. I prayed for her to let go of the ‘pregnancy pact’ she made with her pregnant cousin.  I prayed that she would rise above the drama of her drug dealing brother in jail, her divorced mom’s alcohol addiction and her wayward dad’s drug addiction. I prayed for her to submerge herself in academic life, to go out for the track team and write for the school paper because she told me she enjoyed writing and her grandfather ran for the track team in his high school.

The last I heard she is in her second year of college, the first in her family to go to school.  She has received awards for improvement and academic achievement.  I am so proud of her and hope to see her again soon.

It is amazing what a little prayer can do.  He loves us and wants us to love those in pain and need.  He gives us the experience to share the pain of others, so that when the time is right, our past hurt will seize the opportunity to help break the cycle of injustice.  Although I am deeply saddened about what has happened to those in my past, the joy I received from watching others grow exceeds the pain.  The unintended side effect is that joy has allowed me to be a more positive person.

And as for my four legged friends? Well they are still around and they are sometimes forced to listen to my deepest secrets. But with God and my experience, I can now see the crazies of the world coming and kick them out of way with the quickness of a bolt of lightening.

*names have been changed

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2013-02-18 15.46.00 I have added bison meat to our list of ‘go to’ dinners. There are so many reasons why I love making bison for my family.

Why bison, you ask?  Nutritionally, its healthier for you.  We like it because its the same texture and pretty much the same flavor as beef.  Here are some nutritional facts.

As a nurse, my mother instilled in us the benefit of healthy eating habits.  Growing up, she would harvest numerous brilliantly colored foods from my father’s elaborate vegetable gardens.  I remember playing in the soil while my father taught us to appreciate God’s abundance  in nature.  As an avid hunter, he would bring home his bounty from land and water to feed his family and friends.

With a culmination of both of these beautiful attributes under my belt, I love to share healthy eating habits with respect to God’s abundance.

Here I have included a yummy recipe using my neighbor’s bison meat.  I made this for my Moms group and it was so good I had to share. Enjoy!!

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound onions, peeled and quartered
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound ground bison
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup dry breadcrumbs, such as Panko
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons chopped sage
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons flour
Method:

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse onions and garlic until finely chopped. Set aside 1/2 cup of this mixture. Preheat a tablespoon of the oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Transfer remaining chopped onions and garlic from the food processor to the hot pan and cook, stirring often until caramelized, about 15 minutes. When onions in pan are caramelized, transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Meanwhile, make meatballs. Combine reserved onions and garlic with bison, pepper, salt, soy sauce, ketchup, oregano, cayenne, breadcrumbs and egg. With a spatula, toss lightly to combine. Overworking mixture will create a heavy paste, so use a light hand. Roll into balls and transfer to a plate.

Return pan to medium heat and add remaining olive oil. Add meatballs and brown them on all sides, 5 to 10 minutes. Whisk beef broth, flour and sage into bowl with caramelized onions. When meatballs are browned, stack to one side of the pan. Pour in broth mixture and stir, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Redistribute meatballs evenly in pan and simmer over medium heat, turning meatballs occasionally with a spoon. Cook until gravy is thickened and meatballs are cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. To serve, arrange meatballs on a plate and spoon gravy over them.

Nutritional Info:
PER SERVING:310 calories (100 from fat), 11g total fat, 2.5g saturated fat, 125mg cholesterol, 770mg sodium, 24g carbohydrate (2g dietary fiber, 7g sugar), 30g protein

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Buffalo Run Ranch

I turned the corner to make my way down the winding road surrounded by open fields and take a moment to become fully immersed in the panoramic views of Pennsylvania horse country.  Just steps outside the Philadelphia suburbs,  a Texas sized iron arch over a narrow driveway welcomes me to Buffalo Run Ranch.  The driveway seems to disappear over the hill as I travel between hundred acre pastures allowing me to catch a glimpse of a juvenile bison frolicking among the herd and a few new babies grazing in the field.

I have come to meet Bill Rubin to discuss his life as a bison rancher.  Affectionately known as “Buffalo Bill” around town, Bill emerges from working under a truck and waves to me as I park my car in front of his garage.  We enter his newly renovated rustic home he shares with his wife and teenage daughter.  The expansive windows overlook the rolling countryside and a massive bison head is mounted in a place of honor over the stone fireplace. We sit on stools covered in bison leather as he offers meat most recently packed from the butcher.  I survey various cuts of filet and steaks, hamburger patties and his infamous spicy sausage while he shares his favorite recipes.

I was first introduced to bison while working as a pharmaceutical sales rep selling cholesterol medication.  Listed on the diabetic “safe list”, bison (or buffalo meat) is naturally lower in fat and higher in iron and protein than beef.  After learning my family has a history of high cholesterol (familial hypercholesterolemia),  I decided to order bison instead of beef whenever I had the chance.  Bison is a red meat that looks and tastes like a leaner version of red beef.  The texture and taste is so close to that of red meat.  After learning how to prepare it, I realized I could easily substitute beef patties with ground bison at home.  Wintertime pots of meaty chili and hamburgers on the grill during the summer will indeed be healthier.

Shortly after meeting Bill, I began to ask him about the whys and hows and everything in between about raising bison.  As self proclaimed animals lovers, we both strongly believe in the ethical treatment of animals and agree that if you take care of animals, they will take care of us.

DF: Hello Bill, thank you for taking the time to sit down with me.  Tell me how you began raising buffalo.

BR: In the early 80s, I went skiing in Colorado, and ordered a buffalo filet off the menu and really enjoyed it.  From then on wherever I went, I looked for bison on the menu.  After researching bison and learning the health benefits of the meat, it wasn’t long before I bought some land and started raising buffalo in Oklahoma.

DF: Why buffalo?

BR:  I like a good backstory and the American bison has one of the best. They once roamed the grasslands of North America in massive herds.  In fact, after the railroads were built and the trains came across a herd, the trains would sometimes have to wait for days for the herd to pass.   Then bison became nearly extinct by a combination of commercial hunting and slaughter in the 19th century and by the introduction of bovine diseases from domestic cattle.  But bison ranching is becoming more popular due to the nutritional benefits of bison meat.  Bison ranching is on the rise.

DF: That’s a great story. Would you say that your work here is your way of preserving an American tradition?

BR: Absolutely. I am preserving a part of our nations rich history as well as contributing to open land in our area.

DF: What are the nutritional benefits?
BR:  Nutritionists say buffalo meat is one of the most nutrient rich meats available. According to various published studies, meat from grass-fed beef, bison (and other livestock) compared to feedlot meat are healthier and therefore, more nutritious.

Bison is also better for you.  If you compare a 3-ounce portion of bison meat with the same portion of lean beef you would see that the bison has 143 calories and 2.4 grams of fat, while the lean beef has 211 calories and 10 grams of fat. Likewise, when compared with lean pork, which contains 212 calories and 9 grams of fat, bison is the healthier choice. Also, since bison feed primarily on grass their levels of omega-3 fat and conjugated linolenic acid (CLA) both of which help to reduce cancer, heart disease and diabetes, are higher.

DF:  That’s exactly why I was drawn to it. What is the difference in raising buffalo versus steer/cattle?

BR: Buffalo are not domesticated like cattle. Bison are more aggressive and harder to handle, although these guys (as he nods toward his field) know me.  When I go out there to feed them, they pretty much leave me to refill their hay racks.  But I never trust them or turn my back to them. They are more aggressive than any other farmed animal.

DF: Do you use any medication, any antibiotics to keep them healthy?

BR:  I don’t use any medications.  In fact, a major benefit of raising all animals on pasture is that their products are healthier for you. Buffalo are “natural grazers” and are typically not subject to commercial feed and feedlot treatment. They are more hardy animals and free to forage in open pastures which promote a stress free lifestyle. This virtually eliminates the need for medication and antibiotics.  Read more about the nutritional benefits of raising animals on pasture.

DF: Who are your regular customers?

BR: I sell to local restaurants, Twelves in West Grove, and Brandywine Prime in Chadds Ford.  The Whip Tavern,  Pasquales, and the Half Moon in Kennett Square. I also sell hamburger patties and filet privately to friends, family and neighbors.

DF: Thank you so much for sitting with me today.

When we buy bison for our families, we are saying that our loved ones deserve a healthier diet. In addition, we contribute to the success of our local economy and a greener tomorrow for our children.  All of this as we preserve a piece of our nation’s history.

For more information about bison farming, go to http://www.bisoncentral.com/

And go to Eat Wild to find a farm near you.

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Perfect Love

best-friendsI joined a group for new moms a few years ago and immediately felt blessed for the new friendships that were forged through the group. I became friends with one woman in particular but our friendship soon ended after I shared a personal story with her.  She became hostile and judgmental toward me.  It saddened me.  I wondered what I said that would make her act that way.  Then I got angry.  White hot.

Later on in the year, I saw her at a women’s function and said a few things I am not proud of. I immediately regretted being harshly judgmental towards her.  But I couldn’t help it.  A part of me wanted her to feel the judgment she directed towards me.

Did I get even?

Not even close.  I felt awful.  And it ate at me. How do I fix this?

Being home with a newborn,  I longed for a few Christian moms who would help me navigate through this new ‘mommy world’. After joining a couple of groups at my new church, I found other moms who scheduled play dates and helped me nurture my growing faith. 

Most days, I was so thankful to be surrounded by many awesome women.  But there were some moments I would stumble home feeling as if I were returning from another battle in the never ending cold war of defending myself.  I was still super sensitive to being judged.  I know I am a sinner and have done A TON of stupid things in the past.  But I was doing my part of confessing my sins to other Christians.  However, I wondered why it was sometimes met with hostility and judgement.

Then I began to understand.  Get out side of yourself, Dana.  Its so much bigger than you.

I guess at the end of the day,  I just need to let the past be the past.  I’ve learned from my mistakes.  And its OK that I am still not perfect today.  I am a work in progress, just like everyone else.

Nine months later, baby number two arrived and girl friends from our church welcomed our little bundle with homemade dinners for my growing family.  **By the way, never underestimate the power of a home cooked meal!  **

One of our visitors was the mom whom I got short with after “sharing”.  As she lovingly placed the hot meal in our partially finished kitchen, we chatted for a while.  I immediately remembered why I was drawn to her when we first met.  She was easy to talk to and so down to earth.  She openly shared lots of life experience.  But we still had a lot of mending to do.  Negativity was shared on both sides, and that was not easily fixed.

I gently declined her offer to join her small group.  I was overwhelmed with being a new mother to two baby boys and needed some down time.  However, through her persistence, I met up with her and together we shared our deepest shames in the parking lot of our church.

I am so thankful she was able to come back around and share more of her story with me.  It made me realize why she acted the way she did.

Six months later, I attended her baptism at our church.  In her testimony, she shared the stories of her past with the rest of the congregation as she accepted our Lord and Savior.

Today she stood in front of so many moms in our group and bravely shared her story.  She cried along with some who barely knew her, but also with a few of us who knew her well and loved her so much.  She poured out her feelings about how her father committed suicide and left her with a mess to clean up.

This experience has taught me not to take hostility and judgment personally.  Its not my place to “punish”others for the way they treat me.  Because I never know the whole story.  Only God knows, and He will right the wrongs. Plus, my good conscience beats me up after I intentionally hurt someone.  Its just easier to let God handle it.

I am just so thankful that I stuck around to see the story unfold.  His perfect story.  The story of how someone hurt so much, and after much work, comes back to Him.  Its always a beautiful story.

He has taught me patience and to keep going, and things will be revealed in His time.

I am in awe of my Lord and Savior.  His work is miraculous and perfect.

The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me – He will complete what he has begun. He will not begin to interpose in my behalf, and then abandon me. He will not promise to save me, and then fail to fulfill his promise. He will not encourage me, and then cast me off. So of us. He will complete what he begins. He will not convert a soul, and then leave it to perish. “Grace will complete what grace begins.”  Philippians 1:6

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My fiance and I looked around for over a year and finally found a farmhouse with enough land to give our horses a comfortable home.  The house and barn were in disrepair, but I fell in love with the original stonework and surrounding countryside and figured we would update the house little by little over time.

Love the original stone, slate roof and big dormer.

Our barn and countryside.

We rolled up our sleeves as we prepared ourselves for the hard work ahead.  The first weekend we pulled up  the old carpet to reveal pumpkin pine flooring.

Some boards in the random width flooring were as long as 30 feet.

The house dates back to the late 1700’s, and is surrounded by many mature trees.  With the back side of the house tucked into a hill, the sunlight never touched two of the far rooms.  After many days spent huddled under dim lighting, Gregg and I grabbed a couple of sledgehammers, and knocked down walls to let the afternoon light flood into the far corners of the home.

We made a safe place for our horses by adding two post and board paddocks, running water lines and new electric to the lower part of the barn.  After we introduced our horses to their new home, we settled in for our first snowy winter and planned our wedding.

My love affair with barns began as a child and I cherished the soaring ceilings, 17th century stone and precious barn wood that made up our barn. I envisioned turning the rustic space into a romantic backdrop to host our guests on our big day.  We discussed our interests and traditions and with detailed space planning we agreed to host our rehearsal dinner inside our barn.

Our barn in the fall.

With a year to go, our next big project was getting the barn ready for close friends and family.  After replacing the dilapidated roof, we had to remove all of the old trash and moldy hay on the main floor. We carefully took down all of the individual stall half-walls and opened the place up so it created one large room.  After the clean out, we noticed some of the floor boards had rotted through, and Gregg replaced the worn flooring with the old wood from the half walls.

Next, he began wiring the barn for lighting and hung two rustic-looking lights (Home Depot closeout) in the center of the lower beams. While he ran enough electric to properly host the band, I had to come up with creative and low cost ways to add more light and warmth to the barn.

I wrapped grapevine and white lights around the vertical barn beams.

I scavenged my mom’s house and found two large grapevine wreaths, strung lots of white lights around them and asked Gregg for more outlets.  After he graciously agreed, I hung each wreath centered on the two story stone walls.  My friend and I came across five rustic chandeliers in a warehouse and placed no drip candles inside.  We hung one over each seating area and the largest one was centered over the dance floor to add elegance and drama.

Our friends and family enjoying the band.

I found a large branch in the back yard, added more lights and centered it above where the band performed.   We finished off the space with tables and linens, comfortable chairs, and perimeter seating with lots of pillows.

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Hubby and I dancing to our favorite country songs

The fall leaves provided a colorful backdrop while we decorated the inside with bright crysanthemums, Indian corn, hay bales and cornstalks.

We could not have pulled off all of the work without our close friends and family graciously donating their time to help us.  This night was our time to kick back and relax after all of the hard work.  As country music filled the cool autumn air, we laughed and reminisced and created new memories as we cherished our time surrounded by all of our loved ones.

Friends sharing stories around the campfire.

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