Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Garden Notes

I feel as if I haven't written much about the garden this year and I fear that it may be because I've felt like it has been a bit of a let down!  This year, the bugs found us, the rain wasn't plentiful and i made mistakes, lots of them.  However, when I reflect on it I realize we got a lot of good produce and lots and lots of gorgeous flowers so I'll count it as a good year!  As always, many lessons learned along the way...

1.  Do not go on vacation without staking your tomato plants.  We left to go to Kentucky and our little tomatoes were still small and cute.  We got home and they had sprawled all over the garden and it was much too late to try to stake them.  Thus, our tomatoes ended up taking over huge spots in my already not huge garden and they often sat on the ground which caused them to rot.

2.  Variety of tomato matters.  I picked up a few tomatoes at the farmers market this year and didn't really pay attention to variety.  They weren't the tastiest of the tasty (though it's all relative, a homegrown tomato is still a homegrown tomato!).

3.  Everything takes up more space than anticipated.  My plants seem to like to sprawl and all of a sudden I can't walk down my gravel paths to cut flowers.

4.  Figure out a better way to stake dahlias.  I staked my dahlias when I planted the tubers, but the stake wasn't strong enough to hold against wind and rain.  At least half ended up laying down.

5.  Trellis cucumbers next year.

6.  Pay more attention to compost mix.  This year, our compost clearly wasn't hot enough because we got two beautiful volunteer butternut squashes!

7.  Hollyhocks also need to be staked.

8.  Diligently weed.

9.  Go into garden everyday to pick during harvest as what's not ready in the morning may very well be in the evening and an entire day can yield too large vegetables.

10.  Make a garden binder and use it.  What's the point of painstakingly writing down every variety of dahlias and where they are planted if you can't find it for the entire season?

11.  In that binder, keep notes of when you planted, what you planted, when you need to fertilize, plant, etc.  Having a general outline of jobs in the garden could save a lot of time and energy and lost opportunity.

12.  Don't get discouraged about all of the above because in the end, if nothing else, the bees absolutely love the garden.  They love nothing more than to take a bath in all the pollen the flowers are providing for them.

13.  Do not, whatever you do, leave the gate open for even one night.  Because the deer that has been patiently waiting every night for months for you to do just that will take his opportunity and eat everything down to the ground.

Monday, September 28, 2015

End of an Era

We recently took down the children's play-set in the back yard.  It was starting to fall apart and the children didn't play on it very much anymore.  We bought the play-set (on Craig's list!)  10 years ago, soon after we moved here, in anticipation of a renovation and the need to be outside instead of inside. It has served us ever so well.  It's been a fort, a water slide, a castle, a par core set, a boredom buster and a playdate savior.  Visually and physically, it has taken up a huge chunk of our backyard and it seems so strange for it not to be there anymore.

And of course, it feels like another end to an era.  An era where my children asked to be pushed on the swing or to have tea in the fort.  An era where swords were wielded from high atop the castle and an escape from the bad guys was a simple jump down the slide.  An era where legs pumped harder and faster in order to reach the sky and where dizziness was highly anticipated from twirling endlessly on the tire swing.  As wonderful as the next era promises to be, I can't help but feel a twinge of sadness as this one ends.

Of course, we still want the children to be outside so we are coming up with new ways to make sure they continue to be drawn to the great outdoors.  I'm thinking another tree swing is a must.  Bryce is dreaming of zip lines, climbing walls and slack lines!  And Harris?  He's still lobbying hard for a trampoline!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Organizing using Pinterest

I've recently been trying to work through all my magazine tear outs and get them to the right binders.  As I've been doing so, I've realized that I simply have too many.  I don't subscribe to many magazines anymore, but I love getting my Moms from her after she's done with them.  However, I'm finding that I simply have too many pieces of paper to keep track of, I might rip a recipe out but never, ever make it because it's buried under 50 others!

I posted a query about this on instagram and almost every response sited Pinterest as their go-to for organizing this sort of thing.  So I spent some time cleaning up my Pinterest boards and creating files that I thought would help me with recipes, crafts and ideas.  I got very specific with the boards and organized by vegetables, desserts, mains and slow cooker recipes.  Lavender even has it's own board!  I also deleted those pins that I've either made or realized I will never make.  In the past, so much of what I've pinned was simply someone else's pin that I just repinned, but now I've looked up the recipes (and other inspirations) that I tore out and pinned them from their home site.  This took time but I'm hoping that it will be easy from here on out and that I can continue to delete, add and organize as I go instead of getting a pile that feels unmanageable!  It felt very superfluous to spend time organizing a pinterest board, but now I think of it as a tool in the running of our household instead of just something fun to look at.

Tell me, how do you organize all your recipes, ideas and inspirations?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Popcorn King

In our household, Harris has emerged as the king of popcorn.  I"m not sure what it is that makes him so, but I do know that the popcorn he makes is better than anyone else's!  Perhaps he just has a knack for finding the perfect ratio of oil to popcorn to salt?  At any rate, it's one of our all time favorite snacks and Harris is always in charge of making it!

Besides his special touch, I do think the ingredients make a big difference.  We've found that grapeseed oil is especially good on popcorn (and it's better for you!) and we only use Jolly Time White Popcorn Kernels (no gmos!).  After much experimentation, Harris has declared regular old table salt superior to kosher or any other "fancy" salt.  Also, we've had our West Bend Popper for 13 years and it's still going strong!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Favorite Thing #50

A few years ago, I posted about a ring that was my Grandmothers and that my Mom had given to me to eventually give to Grace.  The ring is beautiful and I thought it deserved a beautiful ring box too.
Again, it serves the dual purpose of being useful and beautiful!  Not only will it keep the ring in a special and safe place, but it will be passed down right along with the ring.  I love that we added a little something of our own.

I got my ring box several years ago when they were using vintage fabric for the boxes.  It seems that now they are sourcing their velvet so hopefully they won't sell out so fast!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Finding Balance

When Grace was three years old she took a ballet class that was everything one envisions for a three year old.  Little pink leotards with pink skirts and the sweetest little shoes you ever did see. Her instructor was young and enthusiastic and the girls twirled and tumbled in delight.  In fact, her teacher even agreed to host a birthday party where Grace's friends (who were mostly my friends children) came and danced with her.

When we moved away from that sweet class, one of the first things I did was sign Grace up for another ballet class.  She took a local class and enjoyed it for a year or two, but then decided to stop taking ballet.  We moved on.  She tried soccer and gymnastics, she attended classes at a local watershed, took art classes and dabbled in tennis.  And then when she was 7 she asked to take ballet again, with one caveat.  She really wanted to go to a "serious" class.

We are fortunate that we have a very "serious" ballet school close to us and I signed her up, again. The teachers were more serious and not as fun, but Grace loved it.  Something about the exactness of it seemed to speak to her.  She continued on and hasn't stopped.  After a ballet class, Grace is relaxed and happy.  She talks more in the car on the way home then she does any other time.  It's her happy place.  She's made friends with her classmates and has been delighted to be on pointe (apparently, she has perfect feet for pointe!). Honestly, every year I'm expecting her to say "enough"  as it's a huge time commitment for her and every year more classes are added to her schedule, but so far she's still all in.

This past spring she auditioned for a jr program that her school offers and was accepted. This means that she will be dancing in the Nutcracker with the school's professional company.  It's very exciting but it was a difficult decision to allow her to participate.  She will be dancing this fall six days a week.  Six.  I never saw us as that family, but here we are.  I've read all the articles about pushing our children too hard, how they will never be professionals and how we are doing a huge disservice to our youth by over-scheduling them.  I've rolled my eyes at the tiger moms and insisted that it's a top priority to get my children outside to play and yet here we are trying to find balance for our daughter and family.  These aren't easy decisions we make in regards to our children's extracurricular activities, especially considering the ramifications for the rest of the family, and I'm finding it more and more difficult as Grace gets older!  I'm hoping that it will become clearer as we move forward whether we are on the right track or need to readjust, but for now we are looking forward to the Nutcracker this holiday season.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Adirondacks with Friends

(on Punch Island)

Our friends, Barbara and Jon and their three children, Charlie, Emma and William, invited us to join them at their camp in the Adirondacks for a few days at the end of summer.  As I've written before, their camp is lovely and it has a way of working right into your heart.  Of course, that could be because while one stays there it's like being on the ultimate vacation; beautiful accommodations, lake time, good food, pretty hiking and lots of good company.

I thought I'd share the highlights of each day!

Day 1:  Coffee on the dock, hiking up Coney mountain (first mountain hike for William!), sliding down a natural waterslide (Bog River Falls), lots of lake time and kids dinner on the dock while adults lingered in the house eating together.

 Day 2:  A morning kayak, pancakes with the most delicious bacon, another hike to a meadow (this one on property), lake time and a magical night on Punch Island.

A note on Punch island: It's a small island in the middle of the lake that Jon grew up spending the night on on occasions.  This was the first time that Jon took his kids to camp for the night on the island.  They slept, without tents, under the stars.  As you can see, it's truly a magical island...

Day 3:  Woke up to dense fog, three out of six went for an early morning swim, I watched from the deck as the boys emerged from the fog as they paddled home, all the while singing at the top of their lungs, lake time where Harris got up on water skis the very first time he tried and Grace on her 3rd attempt, an epic brisket was roasted/smoked for 10 hours by a slightly obsessed Bryce, Barbara and I paddle boarded a great distance (at least it felt like that), and a most delicious meal was enjoyed with lots of lingering around the table well after the children had all fallen in bed utterly exhausted from the day!

Day 4:  Our last day was spent mostly on the lake (Harris caught his first fish this day!) before we headed home in the late afternoon.  It was such an amazing few days and we count ourselves as very blessed to have such gracious and generous friends.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

5th and 8th

Both children have officially started school!  I was feeling nostalgic all day yesterday as Harris goes into his last year of grammar school and Grace starts her last year of middle school.  It's so incredibly cliche but man are these years flying by!  When they were little it felt as if we had all the time in the world with them at home and now it feels the exact opposite.  It's exciting to watch them spread their wings and grow, but it's hard on the heart don't you think?

We had our traditional dinner of alphabet soup. Though the children are way past the alphabet phase they still want to stick with tradition and who am I to argue.  This was my 9th year making this meal!

This year our dessert was doughnuts made to resemble apples with the help of icing (powdered sugar and milk), a pretzel stick and a little fruit leather.

And pencils (cheese straws) and erasers (wafers) complete with eraser dust.

Also?  I had no idea that today was a half day for Grace so I didn't pick her up!  How's that for getting off on the right wrong foot?!

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