Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Nature Study

Today we ventured out to gaze at the geese again. I learned from my field guide on our first visit, they are Canadian geese. This time we stayed atop the hill, rather than intrude on their turf. I could have watched them for hours I am convinced. I think I have mentioned, I am not even a huge bird person, they kind of creep me out. That said, there is something about sitting in the comfortable outdoors with a constant breeze on a sunshiny day, isn't there? Sitting to observe with sketchbook and pencil in hand, I find myself a very relaxing time.

I happened upon some little flowers, springing up from on the edge of a tall bush. Looking for it in my New England Field Guide put out by the National Audubon Society, I found it:

Calico Aster
Aster Lateriflorus

Next thing that caught my interest was this beauty. Looking close up, there are the most delightful and peculiar berries I've ever seen! I am not positive, but after researching on google images, I believe it may be the Kousa Dogwood. What do you think?

here is a shot of my very messy, preliminary not finished sketch

Monday, September 14, 2009

What I love about Fall & contest

I thought I would tell you about a great Fall giveaway being drawn tomorrow at AE Filkins. Go there to check out what you need to do to have a chance/s at winning a wonderful supply of Fall Decorations.

My favorite fall decorations are cute pumpkins, little signs, and also natural items both as they are found or embellished with glitter. Think gourds, berries, pinecones, pumpkins natural or glittered, acorns natural or glittered, indian corn, apples in a nice wooden bowl. Colored leaves on the table. I LOVE IT ALL!!!

I love the coziness that fall brings in. The crisp air just lends itself to curling up with a throw and snuggling with a little one or other loved ones. I love filling our home with the aroma of simmering spices like cinnamon, cloves and allspice, something that is just not fitting during the Spring and Summer months.

I love being able to bake once again and not wilt the entire household. Baking all manner of loaves and gingerbread. Memories of being 8 in grandma's kitchen and feelings of nourishment envelope me as I endeavour to recreate these times for my own children.

I love the color show that is put on in New England for all to marvel over and delight in. I love apple picking and creating memories with these traditions for my children to store up in their hearts. What do YOU love about Fall? Blog about it and then enter the giveaway, Tuesday is the last day.

First Day of Co-op!!

Thursday was the first day of our preschool-3rd grade homeschool co-op for the new school year. Aiden, Danny, Ryan and I headed out to the store to buy our picnic lunch (since we had run out of most everything being almost the end of the week and all). Being sufficiently supplied, we then made our way to beautiful Stanley Park to meet up with all of our friends. Incidentally, we hadn't seen any of them ALL summer! It was such a fun time, and a pretty day. At first we were a bit chilly, but an hour later when the sun shone stronger it was perfect!

The children played on the gigantic play structure while the moms caught up and chatted. An hour and a half later we rounded the troops to the nearby pavilion to enjoy lunch together. We each brought our own main lunch, as well as something to share with the group. I brought 2 bags of chips and a huge bag of grapes. There was also juice and cups, smores cookies, cupcakes and cheese and crackers for all.

It was wonderful to see my two eldest boys make a friend right away. These two boys of mine are new to co-op this year, only Aiden had gone last year. Ryan and his new friend, Cole, even found a humungous white round mushroom in the park and it was the size of a softball!

Another thing I learned about from another mom, Christina, was the Ginko leaves. These trees are often found in cities, and their leaves have the finest ridges all over them which feels really neat to run your fingers over. Soon, they will turn a brilliant gold color, and she mentioned how they look really pretty in a vase. So the next time you see a tree with these type of leaves you know it is Ginko Biloba!

Some other boys made a fort in the middle of a huge bush...haha This day made me realize how much I had missed all of these acquaintances we had met in the last few months of last school year. I am much looking forward to our coming year together!!

I took the opportunity to take a "school picture" of two of my boys while at the park since the moment seemed right. My 6 year old seemed to evade me, so I will have to get a nice shot of him at another time. I like these better than the first I took on the porch. Prettier surroundings at the park to be sure!

This weekend I shot pics of the next 3, and included a proof of my eldest child's senior picture last:

I will have to reshoot Dan because the poor kid couldn't open his eyes, too sunny...LOL

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Our little harvest!!

Tomatoes have been trickling in for awhile now, about 3-5 here and there, and we've had a cuke here or there as well. Wednesday afternoon, when school was finished I had the boys outside to play on the trampoline. I decided to take a large bowl with me to pick what was ready in the garden. I almost filled my large mixing bowl with red, ripe tomatoes and 2 large cukes.

Suddenly I had the incentive to dig for potatoes in the tires I planted them in. I only planted 4 potatoes, which were cut into about 12 pieces. I came away from the back breaking chore with a bowl full of buried no longer treasure.

I noticed I have some peppers, but being quite small I am leaving them a bit more. I also had a lovely creamy, beautiful butternut squash I decided to leave connected to the vine a little longer.

We had quite a large garden, and learned a few lessons, about things like weeds and weedblock sheeting for instance! I am now very very excited for next planting season ALREADY! I know I can make improvements and get even great returns for my investment.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fall means the oven is back in business!!!

Very happy to have comfortable weather enough to once again employ the oven without wilting the entire household, I eagerly prepared some sandwich bread (we had none) along with cinnamon rolls for breakfast yesterday morning. The two littlest boys slept until almost 10 o'clock in the morning, much to my surprise!! As soon as the rolls were almost ready to pull out, the aroma roused them out of beds and beckoned the two downstairs. Their faces alight with merry surprise, they watched me slip the pan from the oven to the stovetop to cool. Below, is my roll making in pictures. ;-)

Start by rolling your dough out into a thin oblong shape

Spread the sauce all over top surface of the rolled out dough

This is the way we roll them up..roll them up..roll them up..

all rolled up nice and snug

all prepped, just after spooning extra sauce to the tops, and ready to rise

fully risen and ready to go into oven

fresh out of the oven

To make cinnamon rolls, take a basic bread dough recipe:

Basic Bread Dough
Yields:3 loaves

3 cups comfortably warm water
2T yeast
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup olive oil
1 TBSP salt
9 cups flour

I set this in my Bosch kitchen system on level 1 for a couple short minutes to knead. You can also knead by hand.

Then divide dough into 3 equal amounts. I usually make 2 loaves of bread and 1 batch of cinnamon rolls, but you may do it differently depending on your needs. I take the 2 portions and allow to rise covered, until doubled in size, in a place free of drafts. When risen, punch down, shape into two greased loaf pans and allow to rise a second time while you prepare and rise the cinnamon rolls. At the end, they can all go in the oven together, though the bread loaves will take an additional 10 minutes than the rolls.

Now onto the rolls:
Start a stick of butter to melt on low heat in a small saucepan. Add some brown sugar and cinnamon once it begins to melt and stir until dissolved and uniform. I then take my single portion and roll it out very thin in an oblong shape on a sparsely floured surface (to prevent sticking). Spread a good amount of the sauce all over the surface of the bread dough.

Prepare a lasagna type oblong pan with cooking spray.

Be aware: This will be a messy job! Roll up tightly as you can, length-wise as in the pictures above until all the dough is rolled like a carpet ;) Then slice in about 20-26 slices. I use an extremely sharp knife so that I can cut without flattening. I've also seen it done with floss. You can "loosely tie" the floss around the roll and pull to slice each portion from the roll.

Gently place the rolls into prepared pan and allow to rise in a warm place. I then spoon some of the leftover sauce atop each roll. What I do is preheat my oven to 350 degrees, and set the pan of rolls in the microwave above my stove to rise in a warm and safe place. In about 30 min. they will be risen, and you may pop them into the oven to bake for 20 min or until golden brown. Serious. Yum.

You could glaze with maple syrup, but I leave as is. They don't last long enough with the 8 of us to dry out.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Fall is in the Air...

The air definitely has that Fall feel to it lately. Quite chilly in the morning, and at night, yet the sun warming the surface up to comfortable toward the middle of the day. All of us have begun school at this point, and feelings of when I was 8 sneak into remembrance now and again.

I planted mammoth sunflowers this year, from the harvest seed of my crop last year. They did not get quite as large as they are just now finally blooming due to the strange weather I am sure. It's been unseasonably cool and dark this summer compared to the usual. Here I am faced with a bunch of sunshine along my front walk each day. I so love sunflowers!! I am hoping the flowers mature to the point of giving me more life-filled seeds once again this year before they wither. I live off a very busy road, yet still enjoy bits of God's creation admist it all.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day Happenings

We had a wonderful Labor Day this year. It was a tad bit strange that the children had gone back to school a week before the holiday, that will never sit right in my mind! Family friends, Anne and Steve, with their two children, Tristan and Erin, invited us over for a lunch cookout. It was great to go and relax and simply bring a dish. I had been a bit tense, it seems I had been going and going and it had caught up with me. It was refreshing having time to talk with Anne while the guys watched sports and the boys all played their imaginative games together.

Later, we went home in time to start cooking supper, as we were having a late day cookout with my dad at our house. Mike lit the grill while I prepped the potatoes and set them on the grill to bake. Our grill is rickety and the thing is a nightmare to light and of course our long matches are used up, so he did it for me. WHEW! (note to self: add long grill matches to shopping list this week!!)

I then had Felicia shuck the corn while I set a pot of water to boil and receive them when ready. We also had hamburg steaks from arnolds, beef franks, and tortilla chips with a quart of my well chilled homemade salsa. Mike splurged and bought some cans of soda which were nice and chilled for cookout time.

I think by the end, I had the dirtiest kids alive! Remember, dirt never killed anyone. At least not in the USA. Germs yes, dirt no. And yes, I did remind myself of this as I watched some very dirty boys eating burgers!

I don't want to forget to mention that I had my first riding lawnmower ride ever after the cookout! It was so much fun to mow our large lawn with this thing!!!

whipped cream from a can on little noses, just like my granny used to do to my cousin Ronnie and I when we begged for whipped cream!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

~Menu Plan Monday~

I just made out my menu for the coming week, and figured I'd put it up for MPM.


*Cinnamon rolls
*brown sugar and maple syrup oatmeal
*eggs and toast
*pancakes and maple syrup
*brown sugar and maple syrup oatmeal
*cold cereal on Sat
*cold cereal on Sun


*chicken barley soup with crackers
*mac and cheese with beef franks
*loaded cheeseburgers and salad
*chicken salad sandwiches
*grilled cheese & tomato soup
*leftover meat salad
*deli sandwiches, apple, bottle water (our standby for weekly park lunch playdates)


*Roast chicken, cranberry sauce, green beans, farmhouse biscuits
*crunchy chicken and potato bar
*beef stew with Iowa cornbread
*chicken enchiladas with rice
*spaghetti and meatballs with bread
*homemade pizza and salad
*roast beef, mashed potatoes, corn and bread


*fresh fruit

*banana cream pie
*gingerbread cake

Whether you'd like to join the Monday menu madness, or peruse 300 other menu ideas, take a peek at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Nature Study Mishap...

After lunch today, I took the boys to a local park, where we saw a little hill with a pond at the bottom along with some geese. I figure that would be something interesting to observe and draw into our sketchbooks. Before we decended the hill, I warned the boys to stay RIGHT with me and it proved to be a good thing! As soon as we get to the bottom we see three HUGE birds flying right at us! They looked HUGE...I couldn't even tell they were geese at first, though logic would stand to reason. I mustered up a deep loud voice and said, "Go. Go." but I am sorry to say these birds were not impressed with me. I was so SCARED I said "run back up as fast as you can". I ran dragging Aiden and boy was that SCARY!!!! When we got to the top of the hill and withdrew backward a little, they left us alone thank goodness! I'm not the hugest bird person anyhow, though I have come to like them a little more in the last few years. WOW! We sat atop the hill and drew, but when they edged toward us a little too close we backed up a little again. I SHOULD have taken a picture but I wasn't worried about that at the time I guess. I did take a few shots after all of this uproar though of our very unfinished sketches. Sorry to say I can see that the detail is not showing too well, will have to draw darker next time ;-)