Monday, June 29, 2015

It’s Been Awhile

The past few weeks have been the usual busy with house, yard and garden, and grandkids. This summer is flying by! Thankfully we haven’t had much hot weather yet. Up until late last week, rain dominated the weather almost daily. This means that we now have mosquitoes. Hungry, hungry mosquitoes. Ugh.

We’ve had some very nice days, though, and one of those was spent with my friend and former co-worker, Barb. We attended our first lavender festival at a small farm about half an hour away. Besides sampling lavender ice cream and lavender lemonade (oh yum!), we listened to a presentation about growing and using this fragrant herb. I purchased some lavender simple syrup and have been perusing Pinterest  for ideas for using it.This tree stump chainsaw art greeted us. There was an imprint of lavender flowers and stalks in a couple of places in the sidewalk as well. I think that’s just a charming touch. They’re having another event in July, this time with wine. I’m pretty sure I can go.

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The very next day, Bradley came back from being gone for almost 4 weeks. Oh, it was good to see him! He was just as excited to see us. The next weekend he went back for Father’s Day, but we’re able to spend 3 uninterrupted weeks with him at home now.

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Nick took vacation for a week, and spent a couple of those days hanging out with us. The highlight was playing Legos together.

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Yeah, you can see the mess o’ wires in the background. Greg did bury all the AV wires, but still needs to finish the boxes and get it all straightened out. Those tools and extra flooring behind them are put away now. I’m loving the new floor, but it really shows the dirt and must be swept or vacuumed a few times a day. Silas likes to walk around on it after he’s been doing sidewalk chalk outside. He leaves a trail of chalky footprints and thinks that’s hilarious.

The next week, we took the training wheels off of Brad’s bicycle. He did a great job as long as he didn’t stop peddling. Lots more practice needed there! It won’t be long and he’ll have the hang of it.

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We finally had a hot and humid day, so we set up the new wading pool for Silas. Brad was gone for that Father’s Day visit. Silas was so excited that he was in that pool by 11 a.m., before the water had warmed at all. A bonus was getting to share the fun with Greg’s great-nephew who happened to be visiting his grandparents that day.

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I’ll leave this as good for now. We just got home from a short mountain vacation, but that story needs a post of it’s own. This prairie girl loves some mountains!

For now, it’s off to bed. This prairie girl is exhausted.

 

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Baskets of Bounty

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We’re so fortunate to be able to take advantage of Bountiful Baskets every couple of weeks. This is a photo of the haul we brought home last Saturday. It’s a combination of a conventional basket and an add-on basket called “Tour de France”. The conventional basket is always 50% fruit and 50% vegetables. The add-ons differ each time and they offer several things to choose from if you wish.

So far, since Saturday, we’ve eaten one of the cantaloupes (it was juicy and sweet and perfect), one of the oranges, all of the cucumbers, all of the mushrooms, some of the tomatoes, the onion, and a couple of the apples. I blanched the green beans to use in a salad later this week, and chopped and froze the green onions.

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They were frozen in a flat layer on parchment paper, then packed into a quart jar and tucked back into the freezer. Now I can use them straight from the freezer for cooking.

Last night, a couple of the cucumbers were used in this recipe for Cilantro Lime Cucumber Salad. No photo because we chowed it down so fast. I foresee this one being a favorite summer dish.

Tonight we enjoyed the baby bok choy in a stir-fry. I’ve never purchased bok choy, and didn’t really know how to use it. One of the fun things about getting these baskets is that sometimes we’re able to try things we haven’t had before. On Sunday I cleaned the bok choy and tucked it into a plastic bag with some paper towels. It has stayed crispy and lovely all week so far. There were several loose stalks that I just chopped up (including the leaves) and tossed into our green lettuce salads.

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We all enjoyed the dish, and I will make it again. The inspiration recipe is here, but I did change it up a little by adding onion and mushrooms, and skipping the wine. Then I added a bag of defrosted cooked rice and scrambled some eggs in it as well. I really liked how the chicken worked – slicing it while still partially frozen meant I could get nice thin slices.

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There are still several things to enjoy from the baskets, and I have recipes pinned to help us do that. Most of the fruits just get eaten fresh with lunch, or for afternoon snacks. There is that bag of cherries, though, that I haven’t decided what to do with. Some rosemary and thyme were in the Tour de France pack, and I just pull it out of the frig and sniff it during the day. It smells like it needs to be herb bread, I think.

Even with gardening season upon us, I think we’ll still indulge in the baskets. They offer so much variety, as well as introducing new produce we wouldn’t necessarily purchase ourselves. Plus, the price is right, and as long as we use up what we get (as opposed to letting it spoil and tossing it), it’s much less expensive than the store.

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Sunday, June 7, 2015

Catching Up

There hasn’t been a “week in photos” post in a few weeks because we’ve been busy and I haven’t taken many pics. Three weekends ago we began our very own version of Renovation Realities (a funny DIY network show about people doing their own home renovations). Greg is a very handy DIY-guy, and I’m a pretty good assistant for him. Jessica worked for a contractor a few years back, so she’s an even better assistant. Nick provided some much-needed muscle to get the project started. We found a couple of surprises that needed to be dealt with, and they could have been major, but fortunately were not. They just added a bit of extra work since Greg had to cut holes in the sheetrock and then repair those holes. We also added in a few things we hadn’t originally planned on which made for more sheetrock work and extra days. Then I lost a day to having my first wisdom tooth pulled unexpectedly.

What was the project? Initially it was simple – pull up the carpet in the living and dining rooms and hallway. Plank the dining room walls, then paint the dining room, living room, and hallway. Then lay a wood laminate floor in all of those areas. We figured a weekend and three or four days of the next week.

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As these things go, “the project” has taken three weekends and 6½ week days. Oh, and it’s not done. There are little things to finish up. There are always little things to finish up, right? So when those little things are done and the place is put back together, I’ll do a blog post on the process and what all we did. In the meantime, here’s a pic of the “almost after”:

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We love it, but I can tell I’m going to be a neurotic mess about that floor. Just warning you.

The boys’ preschool year wrapped up mid-May. Bradley has been gone for summer visitation for three weeks. He returns next weekend. We all miss him terribly, but we know he’s having a good time. Fortunately he was still here for Grampy’s birthday celebration.

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The other day Silas told me he was “out of love-yous”, so I told him I’d refill his supply. There was a long stream of “Iloveyou, Iloveyou, IIoveyou…” – you get the idea. He thought that was wonderful and made me do it over and over again. I made him some hot glue letters and numbers to play with, and added some shapes as well. His fave was the heart and he used it to spread around some of those “Iloveyous” I gave him. (Just use a hot glue gun to make shapes/letters on parchment paper, let cool, then peel off.)

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Little Layla Loula has been an angel while we’ve been pounding and painting and moving things all around. She didn’t like the loud stuff so much, but has been interested in all the activity. You know what else she’s interested in? Food. Jess started her on cereal, and after a couple of weeks I added in banana, and now she’s in love with avocado as well. She eats like a champ.Layla's first cereal (5)

In between all this, there has been gardening, tooth pulling, doctoring, thunderstorms, and regular life on the prairie. This week the focus will be on putting the interior of the house back together. Woohoo, back to normal!

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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Just Last Week…

Another week in review post. We’ve had so many rainy days, and in this part of the country, we never eschew the rain. By mid-summer, we’ll be wishing for it again. It does make gardening difficult, but Greg was able to get out with the boys last Sunday and do some planting. They put in carrot seeds, lettuces, and radishes. There is an onion growing that was leftover from last year. See the peonies in the background? They’re ready to burst open and I can’t wait.

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It is a rarity to get a photo of all three grands at the same time, even moreso a pic with their mother. Since it was Mother’s Day, I snuck out the camera while they were all gathered round.

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Layla turned 4 months old, so Jess started her on cereal. She was so THRILLED with it and scarfed it right down. In this past week she has slept through the night, and Jess is getting more sleep than she knows what to do with. Layla also rolled over from her back to her tummy, but Silas was the only one to see it happen. He was as excited as can be!

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We’ve been using the veggies from our Bountiful Basket every day. One night we roasted the colorful carrots with some olive oil and a spice blend called “Sunny Paris” from Penzey’s. We’d not had the different colors of carrots before, but expected them to taste like the usual orange ones. The purple seemed sweeter, the pale orange like regular carrots, but the white ones were a little bitter.

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We celebrated Greg’s birthday a couple of days early with the grandkids. Cheese enchiladas and German chocolate cake with homemade caramel pecan frosting, his favorite.

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Over a couple of evenings, Greg and I managed to get peppers, tomatoes, basil, and a squash planted. They’re being watered in well, thanks to Mother Nature. We have a few more things to put out there, and I think this next week will be a good chance to get that done.

We’ve had all manner of illness in the house this past week, and while the kids are recovered, all of the grownups have lingering ailments that have slowed us down considerably. Fingers crossed we’ll all be back to normal this week.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Using the Bounty: Tomatoes

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In my last post I mentioned the Bountiful Baskets we got on Saturday. When I ordered, I got a few add-ons to the conventional basket: the Mexican, the Agua Fresca, and the organic Beefsteak tomatoes. Fifteen pounds of what I was expecting to be large, red, fragrant tomatoes.  No such luck. They were small and pale-ish. I was disappointed.

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Turns out, I needn’t have been. By Sunday morning, they were a bit redder, so I thought I’d take a chance and whip up a Caprese salad to take to Mother’s Day lunch with Greg’s family. I cut the first one, took a little taste, and was pleasantly surprised that they were, indeed, flavorful. The salad was well-received and only about a quarter of it came home with us. Greg made homemade pizzas for supper, so I used that leftover salad to make a margherita pizza.

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A little garlic olive oil on the crust, instead of sauce, then fresh tomato slices, fresh mozzarella slices, and some fresh basil. Greg took it out to the grill for a few minutes, then I popped it under the broiler in the oven to brown up the cheese…

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Oh my, it was delicious. The crisp was crusty on the bottom and edge, but the pizza was light and flavorful. And check out this cheese pull:

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I love when the cheese is like that! I also love that we were able to use up the leftover Caprese salad right away in such a delicious manner. The heat brought out even more flavor in those tomatoes.

I see a blt with avocado in my future, and a tomato and avocado salad for supper one night. Perhaps a batch of sauce as well?

What would you do with them? I’m open to suggestions!

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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Week in Review

One of these days I’ll get a real blog post done – when I finally get a project done. Until then, these week-in-review posts remind me that while I may not be completing all those projects, which I very much enjoy doing, my time is well-spent nurturing grandbabies. Our situation may be out of the ordinary, and admittedly is sometimes overwhelming, but I truly feel blessed to have those babies here. They’re happy kids who dote on each other most of the time. No delusions that it’s all sunshine and rainbows, but the good far outweighs the challenges.DSCN0317 (2)

Here is Silas with the “Litter Bug” he created in preschool. He learned a lot about recycling and keeping our Earth clean when they studied Earth Day. He’s writing a story in this pic, but don’t ask me to recall it. His imagination makes for wild tales full of adventure and Super Hero feats of saving the world.

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We are able to contribute for a Bountiful Basket every other week, and when I ordered on Monday I went a little nuts and got three add-on packages. There was no way there was enough room in the frig for what was coming. Layla was really good one day and between her napping and happily sitting in her high chair watching, I was able to deep clean the frig in shifts. Take in the beauty. It was fleeting. Sigh. (Yes, that is a half-eaten apple, courtesy of Silas.)  (Does anyone else have so many condiments? I need a frig just for those. Sheesh.) (Also, too, doesn’t showing the inside of the refrigerator seem really personal?)

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For Valentine’s Day, Greg purchased and installed Minecraft on his Kindle for the boys. Silas likes to pretend he’s playing, but Brad actually does spend some time each week creating in the game. He likes to watch Minecraft videos on YouTube, then try out new ideas in his own game. He’s usually allowed just a few hours each week, so it’s a special treat to get to play. He also is required to wear headphones. It’s way too much audio stimulation for this Grammy to deal with otherwise!

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Miss Layla was sick through this week, but she was a trooper. There were still lots of smiles and snuggles and slobbery kisses.

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Aaaand, here’s our haul from Bountiful Baskets that we picked up Saturday morning! Jess and I did some meal planning this afternoon centered around all this deliciousness. There are some new-to-us items that will take some research to learn to use, like tamarind and dried hibiscus flowers. I’m pretty excited about the tomatoes. This time of year I start craving fresh ones, and while these don’t look too red and ripe, they actually have good flavor. The multi-colored carrots will be fun to sample as well, and I’ve never given the boys fresh apricots. I like apricots, so we’ll see how that goes.

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We pick up our basket at 7 a.m., so usually have some time to get everything washed before putting it away. Not this day, since Brad and I were attending a private showing of the new Avengers movie, and had to be back in town almost right away. I had time to unpack and inspect everything, make sure Jess got a good pic, then we packed that clean frig full. It is once again bursting with bounty, with nary a spare inch for any leftovers. Good thing we have a second refrigerator in the garage!

You may have noticed the pretty flowers on the table in the background. Bradley picked those out for me when he was shopping with his mama the other day. Grampy sprayed the dandelions in the yard, so those were in short supply this week.

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Saturday, May 2, 2015

This Week in Photos (again)

I don’t feel like I accomplished much this past week beyond making the bed every day and keeping up with dishes. I did do a massive amount of laundry mid-week. The boys were out of underwear, so…

Last Sunday was a gorgeous day and I spent part of the afternoon working on the east side of the garage. Years ago I made a small flower bed there, but it’s been sadly neglected. The mulberry tree was cut down last fall, so now I can get in there and put in some new color with flowers. The bleeding heart at the far end is just lovely, and there is lily of the valley all over in there. Also, lots of little trees that are the bane of my existence.  Anyway, this bed is where I’ll be using empty wine bottles. You’ll just have to stay tuned for that!

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The boys just cannot keep away from their baby sister, and she loves the attention. Well, most of the time. Silas asked me to snap a pic while he snuggled Layla.

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On Monday evening I went outside to grab the stroller and bring it in, and this is what I found on the front porch. I think my heart is going to explode, these boys fill it up so full. Yes, they duct-taped dandelions to the house. They know Grammy likes flowers by the front door.

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Bradley and Layla are checking out the baby TV channel together. Yes, for a few minutes each morning, she gets to watch TV. Grammy has things to do.

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Whenever the boys are here for supper on Tuesdays, we have Mexican food and call it “Taco Tuesday” (thank you, Lego Movie). I asked Silas what we should have this week and he asked for “regleear” (regular) tacos, salad, worms, and butterflies. I did not bat an eye, and he got what he asked for. For the worms, we made “zoodles” using a zucchini and a little gadget I have that looks like a vegetable peeler, but makes long shreds instead. I did a quick sauté with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and we had our worms. (I made everyone take some. Grampy buried his one zoodle in the bottom of his taco.) For the butterflies, we took some sugar cookie dough from the freezer and Silas made butterfly-shaped cookies for dessert.

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The weather was perfect all week long, and Jess took the kids to the park each afternoon when she got home from work. Miss Layla has graduated from being strapped in her car sea on the stroller, to sitting in the seat. She loves walking to the park now that she can see all the cool stuff around her!

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When I could, I worked on this project. I spent most of Wednesday afternoon cutting out all the little pieces, and now have begun to sew. More on that project as it nears completion. That is my mom’s sewing machine, so I’ve had it 18 years. I have no idea how old it was when I got it, but suffice to say, it has lived a good long life and is about to be retired.

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So there you go - a small slice of life here on the prairie. Complete with duct taped flowers and worms for supper.

 

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