Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas fun

For Christmas this year we decided to give the kids a few experiences, instead of more things. Yes, they got a few things, but nothing can compare to the grins on their faces with cousin Berik upon arrival at Vertical Endeavor's climbing camp for kids. 9-1 p.m. today.... what an adventure!

Of course, Gus being Gus, I got a call half-way through the camp saying that Gus had hit his head, was bleeding but it had stopped. Did I want to talk to him or come and get him? Given that this is his 4th head injury, he toughed it out after a quick pick-me-up pep talk with Mama... and he was fine. Maybe he should start wearing a helmet at all times?
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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Feeling December

It is December and we are feeling excited around this house. Generally we wait until after the birthday season to start decorating, but this year my birthday hasn't yet arrived and we already have the stockings hung on the piano with care. Such joy!

Our favorite decoration is the advent calendar and the kids take turns choosing which pocket to select an ornament from to hang on the tree. It is fun to watch the three of them negotiate with each other about who gets to choose on which day and which ornament. In most Advent calendars people choose what is behind the date, but we've decided to be a bit more flexible, allowing for personal choice as well as argue prevention.

We're also trying a new tradition I learned about from Sarah Jane: wrapping up all our children's Christmas books and unwrapping one each night before bed to celebrate the season of Advent. We have about ten books and I plan on picking up a few more to add to our collection or maybe even wrap up some library books for fun. (P.S. They were all wrapped with the exeption of the ones we had opened on Dec. 1 and 2, but our 2 year old niece visited on Friday and thought it was time to open presents. Back to the wrapping paper, we go!)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Harvest Festival

I went out to our gardens this week to see if there might be anything left, just in case. To my surprise I found over 65 items (Gus counted!) that were ready to be picked and brought in. Some were things we planted this summer like carrots and tomatoes, but there were plenty of self seeders and mystery plants that appeared out of no where.

The harvest? 3 cantaloupes, a squash, yellow pear tomatoes, roma and heirloom tomatoes, 5 potatoes, onions I planted last year, 3 green peppers and 8 beets. There is still a lot of parsley left too, but I left it out there for the bunnies.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Apples Apples Everywhere

This fall may win awards in Minnesota for being our best, most beautiful, ever. It has been sunny, warm, cool, crisp, barely rainy and absolutely wonderful for colorful leaves and playing outside in the piles of them.

Two weeks ago we visited my mom's cousin's apple tree (same place we've picked in the past) and brought home FIVE large cardboard boxes of apples. They aren't beauties, but the flavor is good and with a bit of love, they make great apple sauce.
With an hour or so of chopping and chatting time with my mom plus a few hours afterschool, I've been able to make a pretty good dent in the supply. There are two boxes of apples left on the porch that need to be cut up and cooked, but we have 11 quart jars canned and 11 32 oz. yogurt containers put up in the freezer.

Yes, the freezer. I almost cried today when two of my quart jars cracked when I put them into the canner, letting all of the liquid gold run into the canner. What a waste! Looking at the gallons of sauce left to can, I pondered a few choices. Freeze the jars instead of boiling/canning them? No, that would require me to purchase more rings to seal them. Quart ziplock bags? No, that would require buying more stuff. What do we have on hand? 32 ounce yogurt containers... saved in bags in the garage because Minneapolis doesn't accept them for recycling and we take them elsewhere. I'm not positive on the longevity of preserving in yogurt tubs, but with a bit of foil and a rubber band over the top, they seem to be well sealed.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Return from Angola

The month of August is just about over and I'm finally sitting down for a breath. The warm, slow days of summer blended into a quicker pace as we ran into cabin season, cousins visiting from out of town and then finally my trip to Angola for two weeks. The shock was great upon my return, with just a day of rest before I dutifully returned to my teacher's meetings. Tomorrow, of course, is the first day of school. Good bye wonderful summer, we enjoyed every little jump, splash, berry, tomato, squeeze, giggle, snuggle and leap!

My dear friend Stephanie lives in Angola (in southwest Africa) with her fiance Rolf. Their baby Cecilia Caroline was born in Namibia in May and died 17 days later when she stopped breathing and had to be put on a ventilator. Her cause of death is still inconclusive and the pain has been awful for everyone.

Originally I was going to visit to help take care of sweet Cecilia, but after her death, the trip took on a completely different tone. In the coming days and weeks I will be posting photos of the amazing beauty and sights we saw as we road tripped across southern Africa.

To those of you with kiddos heading off to school these next few days and weeks, good luck!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Feeling Veggie

My favorite, all time summer food is grilled veggies. If you serve it with a side of roasted red pepper dip, I don't need another thing. Well, maybe a glass of wine to help wash it down. I don't think I've ever shared this recipe (from an old Bon Appetit), so here goes:

Roasted Red Pepper Dip

2 large garlic gloves 1/2 cup diced drained roasted red pepper from jar (or your own roasted ones)1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1/2 cup mayonnaise

With processor running, drop garlic through feed tube and mince. Scrape down sides of bowl. Add roasted pepper, vinegar and cayenne and process until mixture is almost a smooth purée. Add 1/4 cup mayonnaise and process using on/off turns just until combined. Transfer sauce to a small bowl; mix in remaining 1/4 cup mayonnaise. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate at 30 minutes. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Keep refrigerated.)
Place dip in center of platter. Arrange vegetables around dip and serve. The dip is great with cold crudite or warm grilled veggies.

(If you've never grilled your own veggies, it is time to get started! Just choose some good ones, prepare by peeling, chopping or slicing, then drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper, then grill on a medium temperature grill until they have the right amount of grill marks and appear soft. Be careful with mushrooms and asparagus... they go fast!)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Robot Head: A trip to the Urgent Care

Last night we were kid-free at a friend's wedding and received a call: Gus had bumped his head (on his cousin Berik's chin) and was in the Urgent Care, headed for some repair. We soon learned that the injury merited some metal, some cool looking staples. He was there with his auntie who is a nurse, was in a great mood, eating a DQ Blizzard and giggling. We left the wedding to join them at the hospital. We found a smiling Gus, but a Gus who just might set off the metal detectors at the airport with six staples.
We've got a good gig set up with Ron's sister Gretchen and her husband Tieg. They have three kids and live a mile away and we're very close friends with them. A while back we decided to set up a regular date night exchange with them, meaning one Friday night a month, each couple gets to drop off their kids around dinner time at the other couple's house and pick them up the next morning. We try to get the dates on the calendar many months in advance, ensuring that the dates never get skipped over or pushed to the side.

As a result, the kids get along fabulously because they have sleepovers twice every month. Our kids went to their house last night and they went to a nearby lake for a swim. Berik and Gus crashed into eachother and were laughing, until they noticed the blood dripping from Berik's chin. With smiles on their faces, soon they realized that Gus, too, had an injury. Tough guys, indeed. And as for Gus, he held it all together, staples and all, until it was all over and I poked my head in the door. You're so brave, buddy!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Our Summer List: a pie

At the beginning of every summer, we sit down and make a list of all the activities and projects we want to do during the summer. Usually the list is long and we don't check off every item off the list, but we're going to try our best to do most this summer.

Many are making their bucket lists, but I've never fallen in love with that term. I love lists, so I make lists. If I knew how to make a button for the sidebar, I would send it out and try to get many of you to join in on sharing your summer lists. Anyone know how?

Carl wanted to spend more time going through his kid cookbook that he received for Christmas and in particular, wanted to bake a pie. We picked the black raspberries for this funky pie from our yard and added a few from the freezer to fill it out, but Carl did all the measuring, mixing, cutting, rolling and baking himself. With a scoop of vanilla icecream, it was simply amazing.

Caterpillar Love

The summer officially started for us just two days after school got out for the kids: we went camping with our original ECFE (early childhood family education) group that we've been camping with since Carl was one. We've taken two years off with newborns, but otherwise, it is a trip we look forward to sharing with old friends. The kids were delighted to find some other old friends near our site, the monarch caterpillars. After carefully taking care of them for several weeks throughout their steady diet of milkweed, climbing to the top of the critter cage and forming the "j" and then going into their chrysallis, we've been very attentive care takers. This week, the butterflies released to celebrate with us.

p.s. Did you know that caterpillar poop is called frass?

Have you raised any fun critters lately?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

July 4th: Welcome to our summer

Yes, I'm back. I've been mentally composing blog entry upon blog entry, even taking all the photos to share with you the fun things we've been doing so far this summer, but that's it. It is all in my brain. Until tonight.

Hope your summer is going well. Many of you are taking trips, growing things, cooking the treats growing in your gardens, sneaking out of work for inpromptu picnics, playing with your children, reading, jamming to summer concerts and loving every single moment of summer. We've been doing a lot of those things, and more!

I'll try to catch up a bit on our ins and outs, but I'll leave you with some highlights from our two days at my parents' cabin in Wisconsin.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Shooting Frogs

Not really shooting and killing, just shooting photos of the chocolate frogs we made for Carl's Harry Potter birthday party this year. If you've read any of the books, you'll know that Harry and his friends enjoy a little sweet treat here and there. One of them is a chocolate frog. These were the hit of the party as cake toppers. They were so wildly successful that the kids barely touched the homemade chocolate cake beneath, but instead focused all their attention on the slimy green stripes on the dark chocolatey frogs.

I'm posting a food shot to share with you that I didn't win the photo class contest with Penny de los Santos. While it would have been wonderful, it is probably a good thing. With the school year ending, two kid-birthdays this week, a brother-in-law graduating from dental school and the tulips in bloom in Minneapolis, who has time to flit off to Seattle? At least, however, I'll be able to check in on the live on-line class. You can too, if you register. It's free. What are you waiting for? The class starts Friday. See you there!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Almost Famous

Gus wanted to join the Mexican Dance and Culture class at his school to become famous. Maybe it was an excuse to get up on stage, or maybe just an opportunity to wear some amazing costumes, but I think he's well on his way to becoming famous. I mean, really. A kid this Scandinavian looking, dressing up in a Mexican Viejitos (Little Old Man) costume and understanding most every little Spanish word spoken on stage, is pretty fun. He had a performance last week with his group and another all-Mexican dance troupe in which they performed more than their staple dances. He was able to do a fisherman dance (with the all white outfits and hats), pretend he was part of a Mariachi band and then his old man dance. Such fun. Viva el baile!

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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Ready to De-Clutter?

My friend Amy just sent me an email with some information about an exciting day coming up.

Free stuff will be available in neighborhoods all over the World (hopefully) on May 14, 2011. Really. It is a day when you put stuff out on your curb and then anyone interested can pop over and help themselves. We regularly do this anyway because it is much easier than driving a load over to the thrift store and fun to watch people's happiness at finding a good treasure. Go ahead and join us! Here's the website with details.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Penny de los Santos- Food Photographer

If you've been following me here for more than a post or two, you'll know that food and photography are definitely in my top five list of favorites. Toss in a little travel and a language or two, and we've nearly hit all five.

Imagine my excitement when I read about an opportunity to take a class with Penny de los Santos, a food photographer, in Seattle. She shoots for Saveur (love it!) and National Geographic, has a picture of Frida in her kitchen, spent time in the kitchen with Rick Bayless and her first official food shoot was in Chile. She said she's calling all "food geeks." I mean, really. It feels like we've been leading parallel lives, or well, parallel interests!

But part of the deal to win a spot in the class was creating a video explaining why I'd be perfect for the job, along with five other lucky contestants. Enter husband, iphone user and budding videographer. It took a huge learning curve, and we're still not that impressed with the quality, but it was more than fun. A po'boy and beer out at Sea Salt while the kids were in school... mmm.

So here's the video, nervous me and all. If you're interested, you can stream the class live via Creative Live. Wish me luck... my first video and my first tweet!

p.s. Penny, if you do choose me, I'll bake you the most kick-ass brownie you've ever eaten. Promise.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

New Sweets in Town

This is a wonderful time to be alive and awake in Minneapolis. We have THREE new bakeries in South Minneapolis. We're a bit sad that Rustica headed for Uptown, but are quite glad that Patisserie 46, Sun Street Breads and Sweets Bakeshop have arrived and are in a lovely bikeable proximity from our house.


If you're in the mood, may I suggest the amazing raspberry scones at Sun Street, where I got to meet the baker Solveig herself. She must slice open the dough and slather in the raspberries before sending them off to meet their fate in the oven. At Patisserie 46, there are no wrong turns. The almond croissant made me moan (quietly, of course, I'm Minnesotan) and their open face sandwich special one day with blue cheese, walnuts, fig preserves and endive was swoon worthy. I've only ventured into Sweets once and was impressed, but could only afford the small cupcakes, as shown above. They did make for the perfect little treats for my kids for an afternoon of tea party fun. My green macaron, the french variety, not the coconut kind, was delightful, if not a bit spooky, due to the odd green color. Yum, yes.


You may want to check out what the local blog Heavy Table has to say about the "trifecta" we've landed. I second that.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Chalk in the Late Sun

The weather has been on-and-off here lately in MN. Recently as I was trying to wrangle the kids into the house for a bath and bedtime, I spotted Louise in her studio, er, in front of the garage with a masterpiece.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Belated 8th Birthday

Carl turned 8 recently and I missed the occasion to send well wishes out into the blogosphere. He said no to a cake, unless I could quickly whip up a crazy cake in an hour, so we went with his old favorite treat to bring to school on his birthday, donut balls. Yes, good old donut holes. They make for a great cake, don't they? This Carl guy isn't so little anymore, and is starting to do things in a very grown up way. He's speaking Spanish to me and Gus much of the time we're at home, has really taken to Harry Potter books (is almost done with #4 on his own!), takes charge of a few household jobs, and is really learning how to think about other people's needs. He loves legos, beans and rice, soccer, making scrambled egg dinner for the family by himself, reading, playing outside, fishing, drawing, wrestling with Dad, calculating money, homemade coleslaw and riding his bike, in no particular order. We're really looking forward to lots of free time outside this summer so we can ride bikes and work on growing a sunflower forest for the kids to play in, with the seeds that he picked out. . Happy Birthday, Big C. We love you!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sea Salt Caramel Brownies

My brother is starting a catering business and asked for some help with a dessert for a recent event. What better way to avoid correcting papers and planning curriculum? Staying up late, testing various brownie recipes and discussing the finer points of sea salt. Mmmm.... salty caramel on seriously tasty brownies.

Who needs fancy doilies or brownie wrappers? I just got out my roll of parchment paper and my rotary cutter and made my own!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Snow Fun in Color

As the temperatures have been rising and the snow doesn't seem to want to disappear, we've been spending a lot of time outside. Now that we've had a full five months of winter, we have made the executive decision that it is time to get creative with how to be happy outside, even when you're ready for some green. Enter: the colored water spray bottle! Ah, the smiles and laughs and interesting creatures to be made with colored water!

Exhibit A (above) part of the buried dragon.
Exhibit B (below) the painting of the buried dragon.

Exhibit C: the Easter Bunny.
And Louise even got in on the fun, but she was mostly busy digging in the cave looking like a fancy snow queen!

Our dog wasn't too pleased when we kept throwing her stick inside the tunnel to retrieve. Guess tunneling into a cave isn't a natural instinct for a lab, maybe just for wolves.