Monday, May 31, 2010

In Search of Summer: May 31


I'm joining in on the fun with The Yellow Door Paperie. These folks are on a journey to find as much summer as possible. Follow the link on the side bar and see what everyone has been finding.

Gus, Tacky and the neighbor girls.

We've been hanging out with Tacky the penguin, the penguin featured in a fantastic and funny book series by Helen Lester and illustrated by Lynn Munsinger. Gus's preschool teacher sewed a Tacky penguin and sends it home with a few of the books and a journal. Each child gets to spend a few days with Tacky, then writes all about the visit in the journal and includes pictures of their joint adventures. Gus loved reading about all his classmates' adventures and also peeking back into the archives, finding Carl's own entry two years ago. I love group projects like this.

Gus and Tacky tackle the tomato watering.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Smokin' and Grillin'

Ron and his friend Pat are going to be in a Barbeque contest this summer. To prepare for it and to enhance his techniques, Ron recently acquired a very cool new addition to our entertaining palate. A smoker. A very big, sturdy, serious smoker.
This weekend he went to the store and bought a little bit of everything, from a whole chicken to peaches, in order to give the smoker its maiden voyage on our driveway. I don't know who had more fun... Ron and his glass of scotch, thermometer and tongs, or me, watching him on the driveway totally immersed in his element.
I'm looking forward to many, many more afternoons of the same this summer. Bon appetit!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Bug Catcher

Louise grabbed my hand and pulled me into the porch. She didn't want me to finish what I was doing. She needed me *now*! I looked down and she was wearing big brother Carl's boots on her feet and had one of her ladybug boots on her other hand. She pointed to the window-- at a bug that was trapped between the glass and the screen.
"I'm a BUG CATCHER, Mama. I have to catch it."

She stared intently, willing it to come out.

With a little poke of the boot, she wanted it out.

Fortunately, we have a few fly swatters around for such occasions. Bug catchers need the right tools. Two pairs of boots, a fly swatter and no pants. Sounds about right.

I think she finally gave up when she heard that dinner was ready, but the determination on this one makes me wonder where her future will take her. This little bug catcher might just conquer the world... in her underwear.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Summer Bubbles

Do bubbles bring smiles to every child's face? We sure do love them around here.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sprout Mania

The other day at the grocery store we were wandering through the produce department and it occurred to me that my kids probably have never tried sprouts on their sandwiches. When I was little, sprouts were my favorite part of eating a sandwich. I let Gus put them in the cart and he begged to open the container. When we got home, I explained what they were and suddenly, both boys had a mouthfull and a big grin. The entire carton soon disappeared.
"They look like worms, Mom," exclaimed Gus.
We're going to add "grow sprouts" to our summer activity list. Anyone want to join us?
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Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Cheese is Served

This is a simple version of provolone. Simple, well, not really very simple, but simple compared to the fancy stuff you buy at the grocery store. The kids decided that it is even squeakier than Wisconsin cheese curds. This one was soaked in a salt brine for one hour after it had been air dried for 24 hours. Yum.
This one is queso fresco, a crumbly, squeaky Mexican cheese. I was delayed in finishing all the steps at the proper times and temperatures, so it is missing the typical squeakiness. It is a bit drier than I expected, but still tastes pretty good. I love the texture on the outside from the variety of cheese cloth I used.

Now, off to bake some bread to go with it. Or not. It is 78 degrees and beautiful outside. I just might be done with standing in a hot kitchen and baking bread for the summer.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Curds and Whey

I shouldn't be making cheese this week because I have a list a mile long of things I need to get done. But sometimes, when fresh milk arrives by the gallon, you just gotta make cheese. A friend of mine has property about an hour from here and has a few cows in his herd. A while back I casually mentioned that I'd love to try some fresh, raw milk if he ever had extra milk. Last Monday, two gallons arrived. Then we had two birthdays. This Monday, two more gallons arrived. Louise's birthday dress still isn't finished, the squirrels are digging out my plants in the garden and I have about five loads of laundry to fold, but I had to make cheese because we were running out of space in the fridge.
The photo is a batch of provolone, dressed in a cheese cloth, simmering in its own whey at 200 degrees. It looks so happy. Right now it is waiting patiently to be placed into a salt brine for an hour to give it the tell-tale saltiness of a good provolone. I also have a queso fresco chilling in the fridge. Since these are both fresh cheeses, I had to pasturize the milk. Did you know that you can bring it to 145 degrees for 30 minutes and get rid of all the potentially harmful pathogens, while still maintaining the good stuff that cheese makers want? The tricky part is keeping it at a steady 145. I'll keep you posted on how they taste.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Food Revolution

These past few nights as I've been staying up late sewing Louise's birthday dress, I've been multi-tasking. I've been watching and listening (while I stitch) to Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. If you haven't heard about this show, clear off your schedule and get watching. You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Birthday Boy turns FIVE

Yes, we have another birthday in our family this week. Gus and Louise almost shared a birthday. She was born 18 minutes before midnight, and we all sighed a collective sigh of relief. He has never minded sharing a birthday week with her... in fact, he loves the idea of having not one, but TWO cakes in a week.
Mr. Gus turns five today and we couldn't be prouder. It has been an exciting spring here with Gus making his mind up about wanting to ride his bike without training wheels. They were frustrating him and making bike riding not very fun. He ran up to me one day and said, "Mom, Berik beat me."
"WHAT?" I yelped.
Berik is Gus' cousin and best friend who is six months older than him and they often play rough together while they are having fun.
"Berik learned how to ride his bike without training wheels before me," Gus lamented.
I had forgotten that last summer we talked about learning to ride his bike without training wheels and that maybe he could beat Berik at the race. They're quite competitive and I figured this would be a little extra incentive.
"Mom, can we still do it before my birthday? That way I'll still be four, but he was five when he learned."
We got a tiny bike out of the garage and I showed him how to use it by kicking the ground, not using the pedals. He was so determined that he kicked up and down the sidewalk for about 10 minutes, then announced he was ready for my help. Within minutes of me running beside him holding the seat, he took off. Gus beamed.
Happy Birthday, Big G. We love you for your giggles, hugs, and cuddles, your collection of findings, your intense love of your brother and sister, your passion for PBJ sandwiches and a glass of slurpy milk, your desire to sneak treats from the locked up cupboard, your excitement when you listen to music (Surfin' USA!), your constant need for 'notha hugkiss in the morning from Daddy, and your helpfulness to me, on your own terms. Gus... we love you! Happy number FIVE! You're off to kindergarten soon, big guy!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Birthday Girl turns THREE!

May Day Parade 2010
May Day Parade 2009

What a difference a year can make!

Our little Louise is not so little anymore. She is turning three today and we're so proud of all that she has been doing lately. She wears underwear, sleeps in a big-girl bed, likes to help feed our dog Molly, wants to serve herself food from the freezer all day long, enjoys meat more than any other food (meat: want it!), loves singing, looks forward to visiting and cudding her five grand parents, gets silly with her brothers, could stay in the tub all day, thinks that dancing to "Put a Ring on It" with me is great fun, would paint her entire body if we let her, tells her Daddy "notha' hugkiss" several times each morning, thinks Barbie dolls look better naked, likes to dig in the dirt, can form a mean loaf of bread, and is not afraid to name all the flowers in our yard and make up names of the ones she doesn't remember. Weezie, you're quite a girl.
Happy Birthday, sweet girl with red hair.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day Happiness

I hope you had a wonderful Mother's day. I felt very loved. When the kids and I returned home from church, Ron (with help from his Dad) had a lovely brunch prepared and ready to serve to his parents and our five. We used fancy dishes and silverware and lingered at the table long after the meal was over.

In the afternoon we went to my parents' house for a fun gathering with the two new babies, my siblings and families, my parents and grandmother. It was low-key and exactly what we all needed. I brought my camera, but unfortunately, forgot to take pictures. Bummer. My Dad had never made a potato salad before and was asking around for a good family recipe. I passed on my mother-in-law's recipe which he made, but also added a few of his own tweaks. Good work, Dad.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Spring Cleaning

My favorite way to clean a room is to rearrange it. I love to totally switch things around, leaving no thing untouched. That way, I am forced to clean everything... even the little dust balls that lurk in the teeniest nook and cranny. Recently, it was the porch. Over the winter I had let piles of stuff for thrift store donations pile up in the corner along with other random stuff left over from last summer. Ugh. So, with a little help from two little helpers, I rearranged the porch and cleaned. Afterwards we celebrated with some fresh cut flowers from the garden, plus a vase for both of their rooms.
What's your method for the spring cleaning madness? Are you a rearranger? Do tell!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Orange Chocolate Chunk Cheesecake

I'm back. Sorry for my absence. I've been taking a lot of pictures, playing in the yard with my kids, helping an almost five-year-old learn to ride his bike without training wheels (more on that soon!), baking, doing some watercoloring magic with my mom, a bit of laundry, gardening, weeding and picking lots of flowers from our yard. Much fun, indeed. I hope to be a bit more regular here, but with the outdoors calling our names most days, I find it tough to sit down long enough to write my own entries. It is much faster to read the other blogs my friends are working on and dream of what I'll be typing soon.

This cake is an Orange Chocolate Chunk Cheesecake from Cafe Latte in St. Paul, the same place for the Turtle Cake tutorial over there on my sidebar. I found the recipe many moons ago in the Star Tribune and had been waiting for the right time to make it. My sister-in-law Tonya requested cheesecake for her birthday, so I decided to give it a try. It was very tasty and it must be low-fat, considering the fact that it has five packages of cream cheese in it. (That's 2 1/2 POUNDS of cream cheese!) Mmmmm good. I especially liked the chocoate ganache drizzled over the top.