Thursday, June 30, 2011

Outing of the Week 2b - Sycamore

My friend's mother offered to us her very sturdy, very LARGE porch swing that has been stored in her barn for some years. We finally made the trip out to pick it up this afternoon, and were charmed by her lovely property by the creek. Her house is tucked into a clearing by the creek, and is surrounded by huge old trees. Flowering plants are nestled away in beds and pots here and there. It is green, green every where. The only sound heard was the trickling of the stream as it tumbled over the edge of an enormous flat rock. It was all so inviting that we would have loved to set up our deck chairs in the back yard and just relax!

The girls were enchanted as well, discovering hiding places under the trees to explore. J's words as we drove up the long drive: "Wow! This place is AMAZING! Aunt S is a Country Girl!"

Tonight Kali proved her prowess as a true mouser, catching a rodent of some sort that the kitties let get away. We had to coax it away from her with the offering of some of her special carob dog cookies. Ugh.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Exterior Decorating

The girls and I made mosaic bird baths over the past week. We got the idea from Family Fun Magazine (of course). You can get directions for it here. I think they turned out very well!

Here is L's,

and J's,

and mine.

In addition to the bird baths in my flower garden, the girls have put in numerous pigs. Now the cats sleep in there too. (At least they are no longer pooping in it...they use my new flower bed for the toilet now.)

J has been creating colorful designs in front of the garage in chalk. This sun was my favorite part this time.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Outing of the Week 2a - Cars 2 in 3-D

Three words on this one: WASTE OF MONEY!

Although I personally have not yet seen a Disney or Pixar movie that I considered to be a complete flop, this is one that you should wait to rent from Redbox for a dollar. The whole 3-D movie scene is a racket, if you ask me. We had to spend an extra $12 for our family, just on the 3-D upcharge! So...the movie was cute, and somewhat entertaining, but featured Mater too much. A little Mater goes a LONG way.

If you are looking for a less expensive, more entertaining outing, might I suggest reading The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins on the veranda at Poplar Ridge. The past couple of evenings have been lovely here: no bugs, cool breezes, silence, your choice of cats or dogs (we have 2 of each this week) to stroke. It is EXTREMELY relaxing!

Monday, June 27, 2011


This morning we learned that JP's mother passed away at home in her sleep last night. She would have turned 89 in another month. She had been in failing health for quite some time, but was being cared for by JP's sister.

I sat down this afternoon to look through old pictures with the girls and talk about memories of Grandma M. It made me realize that I have been a part of her family for almost as long as I haven't! I must admit that I was a bit speechless when she tearfully told me, soon after JP and I announced our engagement, "You are JUST the person we prayed for for our son!"

Mom was quite the pioneer! As a young and single, Mennonite lady, she went out West and worked for the actress, Joan Blondell. I've heard the story told that she met a gentleman in the kitchen one day, whom she assumed was the gardener, and struck up a conversation. Only later did she discover she was really speaking to Humphrey Bogart!

After marrying JP's father, the two of them travelled far and wide, ministering in Spanish to Hispanic populations in Chicago, Indiana, Oregon, Texas and Virginia. She spoke fluent Spanish, and was conversing in it just last weekend.

My children are her 2 youngest grandchildren (by a good stretch...the next oldest graduated from High School this year!). In fact, she has a number of great-grandchildren too: 7 (I think), and 4 more on the way. Unfortunately, her health was declining by the time my children joined the family, and my girls never had the pleasure of sampling Mom's cooking. Although I have gotten the recipes from her, and I can make a very good semblance of them, I still have never had tamales or arros con pollos as delicious as those she made.

We are sad to have lost Mom on this earth, but grateful that she is no longer suffering. Adios Mom, te quiero!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Monday, June 20, 2011

Outing of the Week 1 - Klavon's Ice Cream Parlor

Another trip to the big city today to visit the Children's Hospital, this time JP was able to come along. Dr. H was a bit concerned about swelling in J's left ankle, especially since we told him that both ankles have been swelling on and off since our last visit in Feb. At this point, we are to watch it for another 2 weeks. If the swelling has not subsided, she will need to have an MRI of the ankle.

I have been very optimistic about J's disease course, since she hasn't had any pain or long term swelling since her knees were aspirated and injected in January. Today, however, the Dr. said it was likely to recur...the incidence of complete remission after the injections is apparently very rare. We will continue to hope for the best!

After our appointment, we decided to visit a nearby Ice Cream Parlor that we had seen featured on the local PBS station recently. You can watch it here, starting at 14:35. The girls had hand scooped ice cream cones, JP had a delicious strawberry milkshake, and I had a chocolate New York Egg Cream (milk, chocolate syrup and soda water...interesting). The building has beautiful art deco lights, original inlaid terrazzo floor, and an 18 foot long marble soda counter with iron stools in the shape of bottle caps. There are lots of interesting old bottles and memorabilia from when it was also a pharmacy, back in the 1920's. J asked if we could "come back a lot"? I think we can make it a tradition after appointments at Children's Hospital.

Wet Weekend

We got a fair amount of rain this weekend. Luckily, most of it came during the night, allowing me to work on my flower beds during the day. The weeds came out easily since the soil was moist. Why is it though, that nicer grass grows in my flower bed than in the yard? After the weeding was completed, I mulched it well with wood mulch, and then it rained some more!

The Morning Glories are coming up in my new flower bed. They look like tiny dragonflies hovering over the soil.

We also spent the weekend rehab-ing a turtle who got run over by the lawn mower Friday night. He got a small section, about a centimeter in diameter, scalped from the top of his shell. It was bleeding quite a bit when JP brought it in. I washed it well and applied antibiotic ointment and some paper tape. After that, we created a turtle paradise in the old kiddie pool we swiped from our friends' trash pile. Unfortunately, until this morning, we have not found anything that he likes to eat, so he is going free later on to fend for himself. (He seems to enjoy the black raspberries that I picked while on a walk with the dog this morning.)

We took my parents and grandmother out for dinner on Saturday evening to celebrate an early Father's Day and late Mother's Day (my parents were in Africa in May, so we didn't get to eat out with them then.) We ate at a very nice Italian restaurant along the river in WV. The food was delicious, and the roaming Accordion Player stopped by our table for quite a while to play The Pennsylvania Polka, The Chicken Dance, and several other songs.

Yesterday, when we reheated our left-overs, we discovered in part why the food was so delicious, close to a stick of melted butter was left over in the container and on our plates!

Last week, the girls and I hosted a fancy tea party for my mom and grandmother. There were a lot of laughs at our 4 generation tea, and a lot of uninvited guests.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Digging in the Dirt

Just a couple of projects that I was working on this weekend:

I terraced 10 flat stones into the hill near our rain water cistern, and planted some evergreen ground cover there.

I turned over the soil around these 2 trees in the front yard (the grass did not grow well there, and what did grow was hard to mow), then worked the topsoil that JP brought for me. There will be a park bench there eventually, and I have planted Sweet Williams, Morning Glories, Allysum, Cosmos, Zinnias and Marigolds. I have told that girls that (hopefully) this will be the cutting garden for bouquets this summer!

JP also fetched a bale of hay from the next field over today. Next project: mulching the garden!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Cool Spot

This afternoon, the girls and I happened upon our newest eatery in town on its opening day. We came home with a bag full of dogs and burgers that were delish. JP got his new fave: Chicago Dogs (M.C. got him hooked on those), and I tried a Chihuahua Dog: chili, cheese, and crushed fritos on a dog. They have decent prices, a big variety of lunch items on the menu, and an extremely friendly staff. The girls were disappointed that they didn't get to try some of their hand dipped ice cream.

It was not a particularly cool spot in my flower garden today, but I got half of the iron fencing up around it, and half of the weeding done. I also managed to move around some of the perennials that came back 3 times the size they had been!

This evening, we had dinner at my parent's house with my grandmother. For dessert, J baked shortcakes, which we ate with piles of strawberries and whipped cream. Tonight, I made 3 batches of freezer jam. Earlier, I froze about 15 pounds of strawberries. We are down to one big bowl of strawberries left, but-oh my-are they good!

Now that the pile of berries has been whittled down to a manageable size, it's time to tackle the pile of laundry that needs to be folded. I could be persuaded to be a fan of naked if it meant less laundry to do!!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Crayfish Wrangling

Yesterday the girls spent the morning in Mingo Creek catching crayfish. L ended up with 5 and J with 4. It was a lovely way to spend a hot morning.

Today was the last day of school for J. She took her final Grammar exam this morning, then attended an end of the year assembly on line. We are all ready for a bit of a breather. We will try to have at least one adventure a week (away from home), but there will be plenty to do around here with the garden and chickens, and flowers every where.

J is interested in learning to sew this summer. L wants to learn to tie her shoes. Both are achievable goals, I believe.

My Grandmother, "Tiny Grandmom" to the girls, is visiting my parents for a week or so. I am excited that the girls have been able to see her every day so far! When J was less that 2 years old, she saw my mother and grandmother together and announced, "That Grandmom. That Tiny Grandmom." The name stuck, since we need a way to keep all of the girls' grandmothers and great grandmothers straight!

I have more work in the garden and flower gardens this weekend. Thankfully the weather will have cooled down substantially from the 93 degrees I was working in on Wednesday. I spent the morning working the soil in the last 6 raised garden beds, and the evening picking strawberries at our favorite U-Pick farm...ended up with over 27 pounds worth!

We are off in a few minutes to celebrate the last day of school/beginning of Summer Break. L told us "I'm not a big fan of naked!" So there you go...words of 5 year old wisdom to live your summer by!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Spring Planting

It may not feel like it, but it is still truly Spring. Every chance I get, I spend in the garden (or orchard, or flower bed) working on everything that still needs to be done. Soon I will have more time for outside work...J's last day of school is on Friday.

This weekend, I planted our towering oak tree (it is actually at least 8 or 9 feet tall, so it's towering to me!)

I replaced the cherry and apricot trees in the orchard that were not growing, along with 3 black raspberries. I also added 2 thorn less blackberries to the berry patch. The whole field around the orchard is thick with a species of penstamen, perhaps beardtongue??

I planted 8 blueberry bushes at the end of the garden. I hit shale at about 6 inches deep on the last 4. It reminded me of another reason we were anxious to get raised beds with good topsoil in this year!

Finally, I dug up sod on the hill next to the veranda, and weeded around my clematis. I planted Woolly Thyme there until I ran out of time/thyme.

This morning, I got another bed of corn planted, and a few onion sets...just in time for a good, soaking rain.

I think that the U-Pick strawberries will be available this week at our favorite local farm. I hope I'll get the chance to pick cherries too! Tonight we ate the first of our garden harvest: sugar snap peas!

Before I forget...I promised that I would spread the word about the new coffee shop in town, so here goes (on my well publicized and widely read blog...ha ha): I finally stopped there for an iced coffee today, it was delicious, although it gave me brain-freeze. It is a charming, yet tiny space, and while I waited for my drink, the staff told me tales of when it used to be the town cobbler shop. Do try. I hope they stick around!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Welcome Summer!

This evening, we met our friends in the park for a pot luck to celebrate the end of school and kick off the summer. It was a lovely day to be out in the park. Unfortunately, lots of other people thought so too, but we were able to find a shelter with tables and everyone else basically left us alone. We left the house in a rush to get there and left the yummy Arroz con Pollos that I made sitting on the stove. Luckily every one else brought enough food to share.

JP and I made home made ice cream to share with everyone. It's the first time this season we have broken out the ice cream maker. We have tried several different recipes, but the one we have stuck with for the past couple of years is from Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book, by Ben Cohen & Jerry Greenfield.

French Vanilla Ice Cream
(makes 1 quart)

2 large eggs (I use pasteurized egg product, such as Egg Beaters)
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy or whipping cream
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla

Whisk the eggs in a pitcher until light and fluffy, 1 - 2 minutes. Whisk in the sugar, a little at a time, and continue whisking until completely blended, about 1 minute more. Pour in the cream, milk and vanilla and whisk to blend.

Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and freeze.

Tonight, we have 6 lovely ladies sleeping downstairs. They are currently curled up in our giant bean bag chair, watching a Faerie Tale Theatre movie. The local schools held their last day of classes today, so the girls are celebrating their newly found freedom. (J is jealous, since she has one week of lessons still!)

So, welcome summer! I am glad this season has rolled around again. I have many plans, and we are all looking forward to some relaxed schedules again!