Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Playing with butterflies

The Minnesota Zoo has an amazing seasonal display of beautiful butterflies.

The kids and I went went some friends to check out the exhibit.

Too hot, but beautiful and worth every second of the heat.

Louise spots the frog in the fountain, then tells us, in her own baby sign.

At this point, most animals are the same sign... but we get the point

that she's trying to tell us about animals.

How do they get these flowers to grow so tall? I've tried them before, can't remember their name, and didn' t have much luck. Any suggestions?

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Summer Cooking:: part 3

Another summery salad. This time it is "tomate con choclo" or tomatoes with corn, easily the most popular salad in Chile. Throughout the year I lived in Chile, I'm sure I ate this once a week. Fresh corn, boiled and cut off the cob, chopped tomatoes and fresh basil from our garden, some s&p, and a little oil. Mmmm. So summery!

Here is the rest of the meal. Ron's homemade mac & cheese with a crunchy bread crumb topping and salmon sandwiches. Actually, the salmon was baked with a few spices on it, then put on a fresh, soft bun with ample mayonaise and a fistfull of chopped cilantro. Summer on a bun.

Every one loves a little watermelon with their meal!

And here's Aren, enjoying our new summer fun, the kegerator that will eventually be brought to the farm. In the meantime, it sits in the garage with a keg of Premium. Ahhh, summer.

the beauty of an artichoke

Is this a vegetable, or a flower? Prickly and crazy looking on the outside, once you peel off the layers, scraping your teeth on the succulent meat, the inside truly resembles a prehistoric flower. A showy yet messy food for guests, the joy of eating a artichoke is in the process.

But why, oh why, is the heart of the artichoke SO ugly? I tried to get the kids to taste it... but with the way it looks, why would anyone want to try it? Maybe so the diehards can keep it all to ourselves. Mmmm. Keep the ugly hearts coming my way.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Updates at the farm

It is difficult to live away from our farm. My heart is there, but we are still in the city. Most of the time I can satisfy myself with lingering thoughts of someday when we're all settled there, sending the kids out to gather eggs, strolling out to the meadow or harvesting berries from the raspberry patch. Lately I've had a hard time just thinking about the farm because I'm worried about the barn. Make that, was worried about the barn.

The previous owners dug the pond a little too close to the 100 year old barn which has compromised the foundation of the old beaut. The soil next to the barn and under a concrete slab that overlooks the pond has been eroding from time and also from faulty (read: missing and broken) gutters. Thus, the water pours right off the tall metal roof, straight off on the slab and slides down into the pond, bringing with it piles of dirt, and potentially, the foundation of our barn. Ron did some research into having it repaired and discovered a man with a super bobcat, or some sort of machinery that has treaded tracks. He came a week ago with the big rig and put my mind to rest.

For those of you who have been to the farm, you'll recognize the big berm that was once on the east side of the pond (originally the dirt from digging the pond). He moved a substantial portion of the berm back towards the barn, backfilling under the concrete slab, then filling up at least 10 feet in front of the slab. Up next? Figuring out the correct way to landscape/riprap/protect from future erosion. It may look like just a pile of dirt, but I envision French doors overlooking that pond and a deck being built on top of the slab, beautiful flowers and native grasses tucked in between boulders and rocks on that beautiful 10 feet of dirt.

Can you see my deck and landscaping? The French doors? Step inside to the artist studio. Squint, really hard. Oh, and try to imagine the neon green algae disappearing too. Let me know if you have any ideas for that.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

No sewing for this mama

Arrrggghhhh! I am on a self-imposed hiatus from sewing and most other crafting for this summer. Most days I enjoy the fact that I'm not racing off to the basement to do a few stitches or clearing a spot from crafts off the dining room table.

But today, when I saw that SouleMama is actually offering instructions on how to do her gratitude wrap, I'm beside myself. Oh my. Since I saw her first one, I've been playing around with ideas about which fabric from my stash that I'd use. I had even sketched out a little idea on how I'd put it together myself. And now, she gives me the pdf file. September, can I wait?

Ok, off to dance with this little dancin' queen, who incidentally, took her first steps today! She has been holding on to things while she walks and today, I caught her doing it unassisted.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

An early morning appointment in the garden

Red, white and blue. In my favorite bowl early in the morning before the family awoke. Red raspberries are still my favorites. The golden raspberries are so beautiful but slightly watery, not as distinct of a flavor. The blackberries are so sweet, but also have extremely prickly vines and tough seeds. Together in a bowl, they are perfect.
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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Summer Cooking:: part 2

Another summer salad, compliments of a perfect issue of Bon Appetit last summer. This one is called Farmer's Market Salad with Spiced Goat Cheese Rounds. I made it the first time last summer when my mom, sister and I took our kids to my parents' cabin for "Grandma Camp." Just moms and kids and lots of fun. After the kiddies went to bed, we heated things up in the kitchen. Well, my salad wasn't exactly heating up the kitchen, as the cooked ingredients can be prepared ahead of time and tossed at the last minute. A perfect salad to use the fresh ingredients coming in from the market or your garden. Don't have a few of these things? Just improvise. I added a little bit of crumbled bacon instead of olives and tomato wedges instead of cherry tomatoes. The greens were from our garden. Of course, we found a few blades of grass, but that adds to the experience, right?

We fed the kids first, then set up our little dinner-for-two in the yard while the kids rode their bikes up and down the driveway and sidewalk. Louise mostly tried to eat dirt, but rode her bike a little. Check out the HUGE blackberry bush behind me. It has been the most prolific plant in our yard, all thanks to a little bird or squirrel who planted the original seed. Thank you, who ever you were! Carl and Gus thank you for their purple fingers and happy bellies every night.

Mmm... yummy new-to-me goat cheese. Ever tried Ile-de-France goat? Tangy and soft, just the slightest bit dry to please your palate. It held up quite well with my recipe when I sliced it and rolled it in spices. I love that it comes in a large portion, not just the stingy small rolls I most often find at the grocery store. When I buy goat cheese, I want it to be around for a little while so I can use it in a few recipes, or sneak into it when no one is looking. Although I tend to look for local cheeses, I would definitely recommend Ile de France for cooking. Notice the thyme flowers? I dig the way they look on a plate, so I added them to our salads for a garnish.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Team Mike: The Triathalon

We did it! That's Cary, me and Holly feeling very proud and happy right after Holly finished running her leg of our relay. Although my alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. and we had to meet up with the group while it was still darkish outside, it was worth it. The morning was slightly chilly and crisp, perfect weather for a triathalon. Some wore wet suits in the water for the swim, but most commented that the water was comfortable. I was chilly when I started my bike, but once I got going, motivated to burst out of the gate at 19 mph to keep up with the pros on fancy bikes and aerodynamic helmets (and I thought I'd only do 12 mph the whole way!!), I warmed up in a hurry. I expected to finish the 25 miles in 2 hours 20 minutes and was quite surprised to find myself done at 1 hour 45 minutes. Go Team Mike! Check here for the Star Tribune's photo essay.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Kid Tri

(photo from Jen Dockerty, official photographer of Team Mike. Her flickr. )

This year was the 2nd annual Kid Triathalon. Is there anything cuter than a bunch of kids 10-and under riding their bikes around the block once, running around once, then racing off to the back yard to hop in a kiddie pool so they can be just like their moms? So adorable! A big thanks to Korie for organizing.

Future triathlete?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Summer in the City:: part 1

Lake Harriet's Bandshell on a summer evening is one of my favorite places in the world. There is nothing quite like the sound of music drifting across the vast green lawn and across the water, the sight of happy kids eating ice cream cones bigger than they'll ever be able to finish, the smell of popcorn wafting across the crowd. We took the kids to Lake Harriet the other night for a treat and stayed to watch the boats and ducks. There was a band playing too, but not nearly as captivating for the kids as was the call of the concession stand and nearby ducks.

I don't know who ate more popcorn, Ron or Louise. Don't plan on sitting near her with popcorn unless you plan on surrendering most of it.

Here's the bandshell-- now brown but was a chipper shade of grey for most of my life.

The concession stand is on the right and the newly built picnic area on the left.

And this? Something created by the folks at Intermedia Arts I think, part of the Art Cars parade. On the frame of a car, but people powered. They were looking for volunteers to ride but I didn't want to go all the way around the lake. Could have been great group training for my triathalon, though!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Summer cooking:: part 1

I love summer food. The ingredients coming out of my yard and local farmer's markets are so inspiring. We had some mushrooms leftover from another recipe and I decided to figure out how to do a mushroom risotto.

I have a standard recipe from Moosewood Low-Fat Favorites that I can make in my sleep with my eyes closed (well, not really...) but I had never tried it with mushrooms. I couldn't figure out how to incorporate the mushrooms in the steps with sauteing the onions, then adding the rice to the oil, then adding the wine, then the broth... how was I supposed to get those mushrooms to release their delicious flavors? I frantically called a few of my foodie friends who would have known the scoop... but no one answered! I punted, and just sauteed them in a separate pan til they were soft and dreamy, then deglazed the pan with a little of the broth for the risotto, resulting in a dark, rich mushroomy liquid that I added to the risotto a few minutes before it was done. The results? A big thumbs up from Ron. And Louise. The boys? Not so much. A shave of fresh romano to the top, and voila... a delicious, beautiful summer dinner.

The salad is one from a Bon Appetit magazine a while back, with grape seed oil and white balsamic vinegar in the dressing, along with a shallot and some spices. Light and perfect. Added a few broken up pieces of bacon and almonds sauteed in the bacon grease (because I didn't have the pancetta it called for on hand)... a complex flavored salad. The other side dish has sugar snap peas, green beans and mushrooms along with basil and mint from the garden. What a flavor! Another dish from Moosewood Low Fat.