Tuesday, July 28, 2009

To Branson

Uncle Bill took us to the Shoji Tabuchi show in Branson last night. To add to his collection, he bought a miniature souvenir violin that makes music when you touch the bow to the strings. Bill never has enough musical "toys." How ironic he never learned to play an instrument himself.

I took this photo by sticking my camera out the window as I was driving and clicking randomly. I was struck by how the clouds mirrored the Ozark mountains -- mounded on the top and striated underneath.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Family Fare

Yesterday the Missouri branch of the family gathered at our house to celebrate some of the summer birthdays. Krista's was one of the birthdays; the first we've been able to celebrate since they moved here from Des Moines. I made a birthday cake for her -- a "from scratch" German's Sweet Chocolate cake -- you know the one with three layers. Only I put two layers in the oven and one on the floor. Two layers were enough. The rest of the meal included flank steak teriyaki, poached Copper River salmon, various fresh summer veggies, fruit salads, pie and cake.

Because of all the leftovers, I was able to offer Uncle Bill a glorious supper when he popped back into town around 8 P.M., this time headed west. He's going to stay with us a couple of nights this time.
The Chain Saw has struck again. Cinder got ahold of my one remaining unchewed left shoe yesterday. Please tell me why he only chews left shoes. And when, pray God, is he going to outgrow this?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What a Difference a Year Makes

Last year on Ben's birthday, both boys were 5'4" tall (and so was I).

This year, I'm still 5'4" (more or less) and they are both exactly 5'8". At this rate, they will both be six feet tall next year.
Uncle Bill blew into town on his way to a music box society convention in Cincinnati. He may stop by again on his way west next week. He believes it is less trouble to drive across the country than to fly. This year he is travelling alone.
See what a handsome guy he is (inside and out!). The cake is Ben's request and invention: chocolate cake with a hollow in the middle filled with orange sherbet, and fresh fruit (strawberries, raspberries, and peaches) spooned over each serving. It was delicious!

Today is the day that the local "Extreme Home Makeover" family comes home to their new house. I considered going out to watch, but it's very rainy and I didn't feel like fighting crowds and mud.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Extreme Home Makeover, Missouri Version

The 3770 square foot home the Extreme Home Makeover crew is building this week near Springfield

The Hamptons and their two children lived in an 880 square foot house with one bedroom and one bathroom. When they adopted four more kids, the cozy home became cramped although organized and tidy. Early this week, the Hampton family was sent off to Disney World and the Extreme Home Makeover team came in and literally blew up the house and tumbledown barn. Today, the replacement house is enclosed and roofed. The Hamptons will move back in next week. This amazing effort takes incredible coordination and lots of community support. Large numbers of volunteers from many local agencies are participating: Convey of Hope, Habitat for Humanity, and many others. It touched our hearts; Ben and Logan each dug deep into their personal money and gave generous donations. Although, the Hamptons are getting a big new house for free, they still will have a $300,000 gift to declare on their taxes and much higher property taxes to pay.
Ben, Logan, and next-door neighbor Cameron wish the Hamptons happiness in their new home.

This was my construction project last week. Not noble like the Home Makeover, but it kept me out of trouble while the boys were out of town. I took a break from making quilts to try my hand at something different. This purse is the result. I prefer making quilts!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Home Again!

Logan doesn't look too happy to be home, but I think that's just the photo. They both had a fabulous time in California staying with Aunt Valery for two whole weeks. She pulled out all the stops providing them with memories that will last a lifetime. She had a lot of help from Colleen, Lisa and Kathy. They spent a couple of days up at Tahoe, staying at a cute resort, soaking up the sun, and catching crawdads. Colleen provided the focal point for family gatherings on her farm -- five acres with pygmy goats, chickens, dogs, family and food. She works very hard to make it all appear effortless and everyone always has a good time at her parties. Logan got to spend lots of time with his buddy, Cameron, while his mom, Lisa hovered in the background providing sustenance (something she excels at). Ben and Valery took at trip to San Francisco to visit the new natural history museum in Golden Gate Park. Ben, Valery, and Kathy then spent a day tagging hummingbirds, a UC Davis wildlife project -- right up Ben's alley!

Today they have fallen right back into the groove, band practice, friends, their own computers, etc. Home, sweet boys!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Veggie Pigout

Swiss Chard, mushrooms, scallions, and yellow onion wilt in olive oil infused with basil and garlic.
I added these to eggs, milk and grated cheese and baked a frittata which I've been eating ever since!

Today there is just one small portion left.
Lunch of leftover frittata and Kohlrabi slaw with broccoli and zucchini

Dinner of Copper River Salmon, corn on the cob and grilled zucchini with yellow crookneck squash. The wine (Sockeye Pinot Noir) is from Chile, but the label said it was intended for Pacific Northwest cuisine, especially salmon. And it was good!

Ingredients for Creamy tomato basil penne pasta (including leftover salmon).

Pasta with leftover squash.

Chicken with mushrooms, rosemary/garlic roasted potatoes and the last of the squash. By the way, I use small plates, actually salad plates, that's why they look so full! The sauce on this chicken is so delicious, I'm going to make some rice tomorrow to soak up the leftover.
Cinder begging

The vegetables are all gone. Tomorrow I'll make blueberry muffins and finish the leftovers. Monday I'll be reduced to frozen meals. I intended to avoid the grocery store this week and I nearly made it. I bought Copper River salmon and mushrooms. All else was either from my kitchen or the CSA vegetable share. Let me know if you want any of the recipes.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Meet Patrick

Logan holds Patrick, Robby's pet pygmy goat, up to the webcam during our Skype call yesterday.
Crystal, a niece of Valery's former husband, (once you are in this family, there's no way out), Valery, Logan, and Ben.
Logan's friend, Cameron, and Ben with his new haircut.

I love Skype and the webcam; it's just like being there. I got a chance to see many of the 20 or so people gathered at Colleen's for the California version of Ben's 14th birthday celebration.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Down on the Farm

The Millsaps farm using sustainable, organic practices. They raise hogs which are penned in an uncultivated field. By the time the hogs are through with the area, it is bug-free, grass-free, plowed, and fertilized. The hogs are moved to a new area and the former pen is cultivated. They grow many varieties of heirloom vegetables, densely planted in mixed beds. A row or two of onions could be next to potatoes and kohlrabi. Curtis believes that by avoiding dedicated beds he discourages infestations of plant-specific pests. And it looks beautiful.

Poultry is raised in portable enclosures placed on grassy areas. The grass and bugs provide sustenance and the poultry provides fertilizer. The enclosures are moved daily so that no one area becomes too soiled and a fresh food supply is offered.

Membership in this CSA has provided us with much more than tons of fresh produce, the education in sustainable agriculture and stewardship of the earth has been even more valuable.

On another note, the Millsaps' family has increased to seven girls under six years old. Last month a baby girl sibling to the three foster girls joined the group. She was born about three months ago weighing around 1-1/2 pounds. She is now seven and a half pounds and is thriving.

Pigs plowed this patch last year.

This week's harvest:
  • Romaine
  • Cucumbers (2)
  • Zucchini (1 large)
  • Purple Kohlrabi
  • Corn (6 ears)
  • Onions (2 purple, 1 yellow)
  • Scallions
  • Yellow crook-necked squash (1 Siamese twin)
  • Broccoli
  • Sun Jewel melon
  • Swiss Chard
  • Tomato
  • Garlic
  • Basil
  • Potatoes
  • Blueberries
I'm going to try to eat it all myself this week, building lunch and dinner around vegetables. Tonight I had corn on the cob and a salad of romaine, tomato, scallions, and cucumber. All was fresh and delicious.

Notes from California: I talked with Ben and Logan via Skype this evening. About 20 friends and relatives gathered at Colleen's for a barbecue and early celebration of Ben's birthday.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Challenge

While the boys are in California, I've vowed to do no food shopping. I'm eating out of the cupboard, refrigerator, freezer, and our weekly allotment of produce and eggs from our CSA. Each week's offering is intended to feed a family of four, but I figure, veggies are virtually free, weight-watcher points wise, so it can't hurt to quadruple up.

The next delivery of veggies is on Tuesday; I'll post a photo of that market basket and let you know how I consume it. All I have left of last week's veggies is enough greens for one salad, a few radishes and one kohlrabi bulb. Kohlrabi smells just like cabbage, so I've decided to grate it and make it into a slaw tomorrow. The radishes will be divided between the slaw and the last green salad.

I consider freezing to be fair use of the bounty. This week, I froze green beans and raspberries, while last week I froze blueberries and green beans. I used all the frozen raspberries and some of the blueberries as well as some of last year's raspberry and blueberry jam for a Trifle I took to the Maples 4th of July party yesterday.(wish I'd taken a picture of the Trifle). I also took a Borscht made of half a dozen beets, cucumbers, and topped with dill-infused sour cream (should have taken a photo of that, too, the color of beets is wonderful!). It scared lots of people, but all who tasted it thought it good. Funny how many people are frightened by beets. My boys, who don't eat much besides mac and cheese or spaghetti and meatballs, will eat beets without a fuss (not heaping gobs of them, but a decent serving -- I've never heard them say "more beets, please!).

Tune in on Tuesday for the market basket challenge, and menu plans.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This

Best friend, favorite chips, California sun -- who could ask for anything more.

Logan has a new friend.

So does Valery.

Mysterious shy guy.

The end of a perfect day.

California, Here They Come

It was a tough choice -- photo or hug. They were on their way into the jetway and I had to choose; the camera was in my hand, so a hug would have been awkward. I'll get two from each boy when they get home. They are old enough to fly on their own -- no longer unaccompanied minors. And I wasn't even very nervous about it -- they are experienced travelers and handle themselves well. Still, it was good to hear they had safely arrived.

The plane is pushed back onto the tarmac after swallowing my boys.

In the airport an old lady stopped Ben to tell him how gorgeous his hair is. This happens all the time and it is always old ladies. He is good-natured about it and I think he secretly enjoys it.

When Logan was riding shotgun on the drive to Kansas City, he looked over at me and made a comment about the "wings" that droop from my upper arms. I acknowledged that they were there and told him that last year I decided to wear only long sleeves to hide them. This year, I changed my mind and decided to let it all hang out. He said, "Yes, you should be comfortable, you are a grandma and you are allowed to have angel wings." That boy is so sweet. Then, he let me know 89-year-old great grandma Bernice has taken up lifting weights to firm up her set. I think it was a subtle hint.