Thursday, July 19, 2012

Things Are Growing Like Crazy

Things are really heating up this summer!  No, I don't just mean the weather, although it has been rather hot lately.  I mean in terms of just about everything else.  Cinnamon and Paprika have been dancing three times a week, just finished a performance, and are getting ready for another feis.  Allspice has entered the workforce.  He is working two jobs actually.  He does yard work at one job and works full time on a farm.  He is definitely learning a lot!  Even I have been running and working like crazy.  I just started a job that I absolutely love!  It is part-time and I get to work from home with some amazing people.  It is a growing experience for me, that's for sure!

I meant to write sooner, but.....well now you know. 

I did want to share some pictures with you of my garden.  Remember the pictures from a few weeks ago?  You can see them here. are some new pictures!

The tomatoes are as tall as Cinnamon and are loaded with green tomatoes.  We have already picked several zucchini too!

The peppers are growing  and we have had a lot of fresh lettuce for our dinners.  Yes, those are cucumbers!  Winning round two on that one!

Even the pigs are huge!!!  Percival (the white one) and Chaucer (the red one) have been fun to raise this year, but I have to say they are the laziest pigs we have ever had.  They sleep next to the feeder so they can simply sit up, eat while sitting, and then immediately lay back down again.  LAZY!!!!

Well, Jack is about the only thing not growing like crazy around here, but he sure gives good hugs!

And a hug is always welcome around here!

Have a great weekend!!! 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Eureeka! Iced Coffee Heaven!

I love iced coffee.  Make that a 16 oz, soy, Kahlua, and dark chocolate mocha.  Divine and EXPENSIVE!  Making that delicious drink costs me sixty cents more just because I am dairy free.  I don't even like soy, but rice milk in coffee is awful!  I prefer coconut milk, but I have yet to find a single coffee stand who has coconut milk as a substitute.  This sweet little concoction costs me close to five bucks!  Five bucks!  Ridiculous!  So, I skip it more often than not and save the splurge for a special occasion. 

But, here is the problem:  The Shop.  A great little coffee shop just a quick little walk from the studio where the girls dance.  Less than a hundred yards.  I sit in my car, waiting patiently, trying to read away the wait time, and I swear I can smell it.  I can hear it call me (not to mention Cinnamon and Paprika can hear it too!).  The tug-o-war in my head is almost painful and I end up reading the same page four times.  It is amazing if given enough time in the car next to The Shop how many special occasions I can come up with! 

Why not just make it at home?  I admit I have tried and it tastes nothing like The Shop!  NOTHING!  The coffee ends up tasting watered down.  Terrible, not divine.  There has to be a better way!  And then I found it.

I was dinking around on the internet the other day and I came across "iced coffee" on a google search.  I saw a link to Pioneer Woman and decided to check it out.  I read her blog post and decided to give it a try.  Yesterday I bought my own supplies: coffee, an 8 quart bin (I halved her recipe), Kahlua syrup (for Cinnamon and I), dark chocolate sauce, and orange syrup (for Paprika).   I spent about 35 bucks (or approximately 7 coffees).

Last night I made the "liquid gold" and let it sit all night long.  This morning I strained it and made an orange mocha for Paprika and a coconut, Kahlua, dark chocolate mocha for me!  The results!  Out of the mouth of Paprika, "This is as good as The Shop!"  Yes, yes it was true!  It was as good as The Shop.  I was a bit more skeptical, it still had to pass the ice melt phase.

Well, I am here to tell you it passed the test....with flying colors!  The last sip was as good as the first!  And the best iced coffee now costs me 83 cents!  For the same 7 coffee investment I made, I get 42 (yes, you read that right) 42 coffees!  Don't ya just love the internet.....sometimes!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Top Secret Project Revealed!

My daughter lives in a utility closet under the stairs.  Yep.  Crazy, I know, and yet it is a pretty cool space according to Cinnamon.  Several years ago the girls really wanted their own rooms.  The problem was not so easy to fix.  We live in a three bedroom house and there was not really an area to carve out for another bedroom.  So we did what came natural:  we ignored the problem and hoped that this was a passing request.  Well, it wasn't.  Paprika's medical needs at the time really pushed us to look for a way to create some space; the want became a need. 

Then I had an idea.  A crazy idea.  Dan was going to be away for the week for work, so as he was getting ready to leave I asked, "Can I just try to create a bedroom while you are gone?"  There was a long pause, so I quickly added the clincher, "As long as it doesn't cost a dime?"  How can you say no to that, and yet there was a crinkle that passed his brow.  Without a pause I continued, "And if you come home and don't like it, I will put it all back, but you're gonna like it!"  Hook....line....and sinker.

My idea: to use the utility closet for a bedroom, naturally.  The room was completely unfinished: exposed beams, no sheetrock except on one wall, artificial grass carpeting, and pipes sticking out of the wall.  Perfect.  A crawl space went under the stairs and then opened up to an area you could stand in, as well.  This would not be easy, but I thought I could pull this off.

The fist hurdle was to get a bed into the space.  If I couldn't do that, I was finished.  After some manuvering I managed to get the bed in to the room, barely.  It fits perfectly from wall to wall.  So the room was a go.  I hung sheets to make walls: flat sheets, fitted sheets,  pillow cases (when I ran out of sheets).  I used blue and green sheets since I had several of them that I wasn't really using.  I hunted for furniture in other rooms to find a small desk that would fit in the space and a little night table.   With the limited square footage I needed to create space for her to put her things, but everything had to be on a small scale.  I hung some posters to make it feel roomy.  Hung sheer fabric from the ceiling to hide the exposed beams.  Moved a dresser under the stairs; I about killed myself doing that one!  I will tell you now, if we ever move, the new owners can have the dresser under the stairs!  Hung a rod for a makeshift closet.  Voila....bedroom!  Cinnamon loved it.  Dan approved it.  Cinnamon has been in the mismatched utility closet ever since.

But, lately I had been thinking, and that can be dangerous around here.  The room had been the same for the last five years and although Cinnamon never once complained, Dan and I wished her room was a bit nicer and more finished.  So I came up with a secret plan!  About a year ago, on a whim I had surprised Paprika with some updates to her room when she was gone for a weekend and she had loved it.  I could do the same for Cinnamon.  While Cinnamon and Paprika were gone to the International Dance Festival, I would fix her room.  I only had 24 hours, but I could do it with a little help.  Then Dan had to work. Okay, I could still do it with a bit of help from Allspice.  Then Allspice  had to work.  Okay, so I could do it myself, maybe.

We dropped the girls off on Saturday morning and I headed home to completely gut Cinnamon's room.  The clock was ticking!

See!  I told you it was a converted utility closet!
I began painting with Allspice until he had to leave.  I hung new sheets (Way harder than you think!).  I decorated.  I hung the "ceiling" (thank goodness, Dan came home to help with that!).  I smiled and I smiled.  She would be so surprised! 

Let me tell you, she was!!!  When she opened the door to her room she stood in total shock as she scanned the room.  With a grin from ear to ear she said, "I can't believe you did this!  This is the best surprise ever!" 

Cinnamon loves her new room.  Yesterday she said to me, "Mom, I can't believe that this is my room!  I never thought I would ever have a room like this."  She hugged me tight and said, "I love it, Mom.  It is absolutely perfect!"

My heart swells each time I hear the joy in her voice.  This was not about a newly decorated room, but rather a way my heart wanted to reach out to a teenage girl in her own love language and ask, "Do you know how much I love you?  Do you know I am always thinking of you?  Do you know I think about you when you are gone?"  This wasn't about stuff, it was about love.  It was perfect.  Mission accomplished.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Simple Summer Fare: Crab Stuffed Avocados

I like to keep things simple when I can.  If I can get by with just a few ingredients to make something lickity-split, I'm your gal.  This recipe came about simply because it was lunchtime and these were the ingredients on hand.  Oh, and the fact I was playing with paleo ingredients which makes this dairy free and gluten free, as well.  After eating it though, I will definitely make this on purpose next time.  It is great for summer and delicious!

Crab Stuffed Avocado:

1 can of crab meat (or you can use fresh crab)
Handful of grape tomatoes, cut in quarters
2-3 mini peppers, chopped
1 avocado, halved
Salsa (I used Trader Joe's Garlic Salsa.  YUM!)

Mix crab, tomatoes, and peppers together.  Add salsa (according to your taste) and mix together.  Top avocado halves.  Add one tablespoon of salsa to the top.  Serves two.

See!  EASY!!!  And yummy!  You could change this up depending on the ingredients you have on hand.  Instead of crab meat you could use chicken or tuna.  Vegetable choices could include celery and cucumbers.  Add some basil, garlic, a little mayo and Dijon mustard instead of the salsa for a creamy topping.  The choices are up to you!

Simple summer fare. Quick and easy.  Delicious!  I love it!  I hope you enjoy.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Gardening Daybook

Outside my window...
Wildflowers!  I love looking out the window and seeing the hillside dotted with flowers.  June and July are always filled with color!  New and different flowers seem to bloom each week.  In May it was tiny yellow buttercup.  Now Oregon grape and its yellow flower clusters are waning as white yarrow dots the grassy meadow areas.  Purple lupine is next.  Beautiful!

I am thankful for...
The sun!!!  It has been raining lately and today is sunny and absolutely gorgeous!

I am thinking about...
Food.  Well, not exactly food, as in food, but rather food choices in terms of health and budget.  It is a conundrum to say the least.  The more I read about what I should be eating, the less I know about what to eat!  Eat this, but not that, unless this.  What???  Grains are bad.  Grains are good.  Legumes are poisonous.  Legumes are one of the healthiest options. Buy organic.  Only buy these organic foods.  Organic labeling is a scam, buy the cheaper local choice.   Help!!  There are so many ideas out there it is hard to discern the truth. 

Learning all the time...
Did you know you can over-water cucumber plants?  Yep!  You can.

From the kitchen...
Nothing too exciting here.  I am back in the rut.  I am not feeling creative or motivated, now that I think about it.  Summer means BBQ, right?  That means Dan cooks.  That means my dinner helper makes a salad.  That means the honeydew melon or watermelon I cut up yesterday can round out the meal.  That means I don't have to cook.  See?  Rut! 

I am creating...
Summer goals.  I am making a list of all the things I really want to do over the next few months.  High on the list.....make homemade ice cream!

I am working on...
Gardening.  This is no easy feat, by the way.  I am not a gardener.  I would love it if some kind of gardening fairy would take care of it all.  I love the results, but getting there is a different story. 

Lettuce and Herbs.
Peppers!  Banana, Red, Green Bell, and Jalapeno varieties!
Walla Walla Sweet Onions!
And of course, tomatoes. 

I am going...
To replace my dead cucumbers.  Apparently, there is no gardening fairy. 

I am hoping...
My garden does not end up like the herb garden I tried earlier this year.

Yes, they eventually all died.  I told you I was not a gardener.  Okay.  It is harder than it looks.  You can stop laughing now.  Really.

I am reading...
7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker.  This book is really making me think.  She is hilarious.  It is a fun read, but has a strong important message.

Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider.  I am really enjoying this book.  Makes me want to clean. 

The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr.  I know I read some very random things, but this is a great book so far!

I am praying for...
Guidance in new adventures.
Discernment for God's will in the paths we take.

I am hearing...
Absolute quiet in the mornings.  The kids are all working this week at a science camp, so it is just me and my cup of coffee.

Around the house...
I am deep cleaning! Hmmm, could this be the result of my reading choices?  I am going through each room and purging.  How do we accumulate so much stuff? 

One of my favorite things...
Sea Salt and Turbinado Sugar Dark Chocolate Almonds from Trader Joe's.  Divine!  Absolutely Divine.  Another favorite?  Dark Chocolate Almond Cherry Clusters from Costco.  Yes, chocolate is my favorite thing.

A few plans for the rest of the week...
The girls are headed to an International Dance Festival to perform.  I have plans for a top secret project that I can’t wait to start.  I will share more later when it is no longer secret

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you...
Baby Robins.  Awesome!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Where Have You Been?

I didn't mean to disappear for so long.  Really!  After graduation we went on vacation.  A wonderful way to relax after the hectic past few months.  We went to Leavenworth, Washington.  If you have never been, it is a quaint little Bavarian town nestled in the Cascade Mountains.  It is absolutely beautiful!

We thoroughly enjoyed our time, even though the weather seemed to be against us!  It rained and rained and rained!  When it rained we played some mean games of Catan!  We love that game!  We probably play it at least once a week, if not more.  We have now added the Fishermen of Catan (fun!), Oil Springs (a fun and aggravating twist) and Cities and Knights (lots of details and maybe the most fun according to the gang).

I know what you are thinking.  Gee whiz, it sure doesn't look like they are having fun!  You are right.  At that moment I am pouting.  Seriously!  Allspice is stealing a card from me.  AGAIN!!!  I think he likes to pick on me.  So, I am pouting and probably kicking him under the table.  I am not competitive or anything.

When is wasn't raining we were on the go!  We walked the sidewalks of town and ducked into all kinds of little shops filled with goodies!  Sure there were stores filled with knick-knacks, fancy bags, chic clothing, but the shops that held my attention were filled with food, or at least stuff to make food absolutely delicious.  The vinegar and oil shop was incredible!  Mushroom and garlic infused olive oil is amazing!  Apricot balsamic vinegar that has been aged for 18 years: mouth watering!  Cured, a small butcher shop, enticed us with buckboard bacon.  Some of the best bacon I have ever had the privilege to eat!  Delicious gluten free honey barbecue sauce came home with me.  Specialty mustards were found elsewhere.  It was a culinary delight.

The landscape was incredible!  We wished we could have hiked more!  Our hiking adventures were limited, but we made the most of it!  God's creation is so perfect!

It was a wonderful vacation.  And now we are back to normal and all that it entails.  I am hoping to get back into the swing of things!  So, that is it.  That's where I have been.  Off relaxing and playing.  And loving every minute!

And now, just in case you are wondering what I plan on doing with mushroom and garlic infused olive oil, I will tell.  A few months ago I discovered a new family favorite vegetable side dish: Roasted Broccolette.  Broccolette is a relative of broccoli, but the taste is more mild.  We all love this.  It is loaded with garlic, so what is not to love!  Right?  It is so easy and the results are delicious.  And most importantly, yes, you can make it even if you don't have infused olive oil :) 

Roasted Broccolette:

Broccolette (I get mine from Costco and use half the bag to serve 5)
1 shallot or onion, sliced
1 fist of garlic, chopped
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Seasonings (I love to use McCormick's Perfect Pinch: Mediterranean Herb.  YUM!)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with foil for easy clean up.  Wash, trim, and dry broccolette. If the stems are thick, I split them in half lengthwise.  Place on the cookie sheet in a single layer.

 Nestle chunks of garlic in the broccolette.  Top with the shallot or onion.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Season according to taste.  Roast for 30 minutes.  After 15 minutes, turn the broccolette to roast the other side.

YUM!!!  Perfect with a side salad and bbq chicken!  I hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

We Made It!!!!!

I am back!  I made it through my first homeschool graduation!  It wasn't so bad really.  All those years I fretted and worried that I would never make it to that iconic day; the day where, after years of homeschooling, we would reach the end: graduation. 

It was a perfect weekend.  Cinnamon and Paprika had their end-of-the-year recital on Saturday.  It was outstanding.  An Dochas, an Irish band, played for the entire show.  It was beautiful.  They played a lot of songs off their Rise CD.  I just sat back and listened and watched and beamed!  I was so proud.

Cinnamon is second from the left.  Paprika is fourth from the left.

It was even better because we had so many friends and family visiting for the weekend that they were also able to see them perform!  It was truly a joy to watch.

Sunday was Allspice's turn.  The day was filled with family and friends and about 40 dozen cookies, all gluten-free, and all made by Cinnamon!

There were Orange Chocolate Chip, Mochachinos, Snickerdoodles, Almond Pecan Sugar Cookies, Triple Chocolate, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, Coconut Oatmeal, Mint Chocolate, Cinnamon chip  and Zebra Cookies.  Yum!!!  All gluten free which was awesome.  Imagine a table full of cookies, and you can eat any or all of them if you please!  Delicious!

It was so much fun to see family and friends and share in such a wonderful celebration.  There was volleyball, laughter, hugs, and relaxation. 

The rain even held off until the open house ended.  What a blessing!!!  All I can say is that the day was a gift.  A gift to see so many friends and family.  A gift to celebrate such accomplishment.  A gift to see a little boy I once cradled in my arms reach the end of one journey only to begin a new one into adulthood.  A gift to see my family surrounded by such love.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Blessed By It All

The past week has been flying by, that's for sure.  Around here we are gearing up for the final week before our big dance performance and a graduation party.  Cinnamon and Paprika have been dancing like crazy.  They went to a feis (pronounced "fesh") last weekend.  A feis is an Irish dance competition.  This was a pretty big one with over 500 girls and boys competing.  The dresses were bright and glittery and the hair, well the hair was big.  Yes, we too had big hair.

Those are wigs, by the way.  No way could I have curled their hair like that and left them with any hair at all.  Plus, in a way, you know you have made it to an upper level of dance when you are told you need to break down and buy that wig.  This was the first feis and first wig excursion for the girls.  They were quite excited by it all.

We had a blast.  The feis was in Seattle next to the Space Needle. 

They had a lot of fun and did very well.  They were pretty excited.

Now we are back to reality and less curl.  They are gearing up for a performance next week so there are hours and hours of rehearsal.  Six days of dance this week.  Good thing we car pool!  I can only suspect what next week will bring!  So by next Saturday, I will be ready to just sit back and watch!

Allspice has been keeping the pace with his sisters by throwing in a graduation party and all it entails next Sunday.  Who is in charge of the schedule?  Oh, me, you say.  Well, I was thinking (first mistake) that it would be a good idea to have a graduation party the same weekend as a dance performance so out-of-town grandparents and relatives could do both.  Hmmm.  I will leave you to your thoughts.

Good thing I have help!  Cinnamon, baker extraordinaire, has already made and stocked the freezer with more than 30 dozen cookies with delicious sounding names like Mochachino Chip, Mandarin Orange Chocolate Chip, Triple Chocolate, Snickerdoodle, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, and Pecan Almond Sugar Cookies.  All gluten free!!!  And as the official taster, I can vouch that they are all delicious as well!

While she has been baking, Allspice and I have been taking pictures and getting things ready.  It has been busy, but I have enjoyed seeing my kids reaching and succeeding in their own ways.  I look at them and think, I am so blessed, so very blessed.

So I leave you to head off to bed.  Tomorrow is another busy day.  Starting with the septic tank guys who need to replace the pump that went out.  Why now in the midst of all this chaos?  Well, I am just thankful it wasn't next week!  Thank you God for the little things! 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...