Friday, July 29, 2011

Our Fairy Garden

Me and my daughter have a real fondness for minatures, this summer we packed away her childhood dollhouse to make room for a desk and laptop. Bittersweet for Momma, who of course is always happy to watch her children grow up, but will always treasure those wonderful childhood years. When the fairy garden competition was announced at The Magic Onions, I thought it would be the perfect activity to share with my daughter, Sarah (we tried talking Joseph into helping, but that just didn't fly with his 14 year old boy idea of a fun summer activity). We hadn't made a fairy garden since both of my children where very young, so it would be fun to do this with my daughter as a teen.

We had quite a fun time gathering the miniatures, and deciding how to lay out the garden. We decided to make our fairy garden in a barrel that was recently cleared of an old gooseberry bush. The barrel was perfect because it already was filled with natural moss, and a stray grass patch. We are very happy with our little fairy garden, even the guys thought it was pretty cool. Here's how it turned out.

We made the fire pit out of pieces of twigs and some colorful wool.

Off to the side the fairies might enjoy a game of croquet.

We picked a few blueberries for the kitchen.

We planted some small sedum in the miniature clay pots.

Here is one last look at the whole garden.

We have decided that we will add to this garden as the seasons change and post updates here on the blog. Making a fairy garden is a very fun and easy activity that children both young and old will really enjoy. I would encourage everyone to take a peek at all of the wonderful fairy gardens that are taking part in the 2011 Fariy Garden Competition, click the button at the top of this post or copy and paste this

Hope everyone has a wonderful summer weekend!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Mexican Potato Layered Casserole

We have had some fun summer activities this week. On Sunday we went to the movies and then went shopping to get a jump start on school supplies. Then on Monday we took the kids on a surprise trip to the bowling alley, which was also a lot of fun.

In the garden I brought in the first bunch of zucchini, and we enjoyed it tonight with Mexican Potato Layered Casserole, which is a modified version of my Au Gratin Potatoes

Here are our first zucchini.

Here is my step by step recipe for Mexican Potato Layered Casserole.

Mexican Potato Layered Casserole

1 pound browned hamburger
1 packet of Mild Taco seasoning or the homemade equivalent
1 can cheddar cheese condensed soup
1 soup can of milk
1/2 soup can of water
2 cups Mexican or cheddar jack blend of shredded cheese
about 10 medium red potatoes cleaned and sliced
and 4 green onions (scallions) Chopped

Brown hamburger and drain well, then add Taco seasoning according to package directions, drain again. Set aside.

In a bowl mix soup with 1 can of milk and half a can of water, set aside.

In a large casserole dish or baking pan (10 x 13 should be good), sprayed with cooking spray, layer one layer of potatoes as shown below.

Then add half of the beef in a layer on top of the potatoes as shown.

Then evenly pour over half of the soup mixture, sprinkle a layer of half the cheese, and top with half of the chopped scallions- as shown.

The repeat the process with another layer of potatoes, then the rest of the meat, the rest of the soup mixture, and another cup of cheese and top with scallions.

Cover with foil and bake at 400 F. for about an hour until potatoes are done. I like to remove the foil once the potatoes are done and give it another 5-10 minutes to cook without the foil. Serve with a side of veggies. This would also be good with a side of sour cream too. Very good casserole that had Gary back for seconds!

Looking forward to harvesting lots of fresh veggies for the rest of the summer, hope everyone is having a wonderful week!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Blueberry Crisp

This week the blueberries were ripe enough to pick. I just love fresh blueberries right out of the garden. I currently have seven blueberry bushes planted in large barrels, and every year I like to add more. Growing blueberries like this is wonderful in a small yard, most blueberries do really well in large pots or in a small garden plot, it is a great way to grow fruit on a smaller property. I have a few different varieties, some of the blueberries are early, some mid-season, and some late season, which allows us to get a few harvests. This time I picked enough for blueberry pancakes as well as a nice large Blueberry Crisp.

Here are the blueberries fresh from the garden-

My son had his friends over so I thought a blueberry crisp would make a nice afternoon treat for the whole family and our company. This recipe is super easy to make, here is the recipe below.

Blueberry Crisp

A few cups of fresh cleaned blueberries
1/8 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 Tablespoon butter

Crisp topping-
1 cup oats
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 to 3/4 cup butter
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Put blueberries into the bottom of a deep casserole dish, sprinkle with 1/8 cup sugar, and toss with 1/4 cup flour, then dot with a tablespoon of butter cut into little pieces like shown.

Melt butter, then mix with brown sugar and flour, baking powder, and baking soda, until well combined. You could use a little more butter if mixture is too dry, if you like you could also add a little cinnamon, but I didn't because I really like the blueberry flavor without any added spice. Spread topping over blueberries like shown.

Bake at 375 F. for about 30 minutes, until top is browned, and blueberries are bubbling.

Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Everyone really enjoyed this treat, perfect dessert for summer, and a great way to enjoy blueberries! Hope everyone gives this recipe a try, and I hope everyone can find a spot for a few blueberry bushes in their garden.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Blueberries & Thistle

We had quite a soggy week here in the Oregon valley. While most of the nation is suffering a giant heat wave, our temperatures have been in the low 70s. Although I love the rain for my plants, and the plants do so much better with rain than hose water, I was getter concerned that my garden wasn't getting enough heat. Today the sunshine returned, and I went out for a much needed walk in the garden. Some of the tomatoes are a little scrawny, but they are getting tall, and to my delight, the rest of the garden is doing wonderfully. Best of all- the big weed that we have been watching grow all season has bloomed! Here are some pictures from the garden this week.

The first thing that caught my attention in the garden were these pink sedum flowers, they looked very pretty peaking out of the sedum and creeping jenny, a very pretty pink!

The blueberries are mostly ready to pick, we all love blueberries here, and are waiting for the bees and wasps to go home for the night so we can pick them. Still deciding what to make first- muffins, pancakes or blueberry crisp?

In the veggie garden the squash have a bunch of little zucchini that should be ready to pick very soon. We love to eat them when they are smaller, steamed with a little butter. We also let a few zucchini get really big to shred for breads and fritters.

The green beans are full of white blossoms as well as a bunch of little green beans- this is something we look forward to every year- we love fresh green beans, and could eat them every night steamed with a little butter. We should be picking our first summer meal's worth in about a week or so.

And finally... the big weed that we have been watching since it was much smaller earlier this spring, has finally bloomed. It is beautiful!! Here is a picture of the big weed when we first started blogging it's progress, in early May.

Here is one of the beautiful thistle flowers.

The thistle is still about the same height as it was in my last post- about 4 and half feet tall and roughly 4 feet diameter. Look at all of the pretty blossoms.

This thistle is attracting lots of different types of bees- here is one hard at work.

Here is another pretty blossom.

This week I learned a few fun facts about the thistle plant. The thistle is the floral emblem of Scotland, and has been since Alexander the 3rd in the mid 1200's. It has been used on Scottish coins. The thistle is a Celtic symbol of nobility. The thistle is the symbol of the Encyclopedia Britannica- which I spent many hours reading whenever I was bored during my teen years. Can you tell I love fun Wikipedia facts?

A fun Thistle legend- According to Scottish legend, an invading Norse army was trying to sneak up on the Scottish army, one of the Norseman was barefoot, and stepped on a thistle and cried out in pain, which of course alerted the Scots to their presence. I must say, that looking at our thistle and all of it's many thorns, it would definitely make someone cry out in pain if they stepped on it barefoot. Yikes!

Butterfly and finch enjoy the thistle. Also, the thistle has many medicinal uses. In medieval times it was thought to be a cure for baldness and even the plague!

Earlier this week I wrote about my trip to the Scottish Highland Games, and how I bought myself a little treasure that I would share with you this week. Here it is- a beautiful, bone china thistle coffee cup, made in Scotland.

Can't wait to enjoy a nice hot beverage early in the morning out in my summer garden, watching more thistles blossom! Hope everyone is having a nice week- and to all of you out there in the big heat wave- I pray you stay cool- sending a nice breeze from Oregon.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 NIV

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Scottish Highland Games & My Birthday

Yesterday was a wonderful day! It was my birthday, I turned 38 years old, and I had an amazing day with my family. We spent the entire day at the Portland Scottish Highland Games. My sister Amy and her family along with their Japanese exchange student were also there, I love getting to see my sister and her family, and I really enjoyed meeting their exchange student.

Before we left for the day, Gary and the kids gave me my birthday present- the new Yankee candles in the canning jars I thought were so cute, as well as some of the candle holders I had been eyeing and a small mountain lodge scented candle. I also got a new apple peeler/corer/slicer which will be wonderful for all of my baking! Here is a picture of my new candles. Thanks Gary, Sarah & Joseph, I loved my gift!!

I have enjoyed going to the highland games many times over the last 19 years, and every so often it lands right on my birthday, which I think is great. I really enjoy celebrating our Scottish heritage. I thought I would share some pictures of the games.

The Welcoming Ceremony is always nice, I love how they start it with a prayer, as well as the National Anthems of the United States as well as Canada and England. I love singing along with an entire stadium of people singing the national anthem. Here is a picture of the guest pipe band- The Prince Charles Pipe Band from San Francisco, CA. I am a huge fan of bagpipes!!

Here's the Flag.

After the welcoming ceremony, is the Kilted Mile Race. We always enjoy watching and cheering on the runners. The mile long race must be run wearing a kilt for the entire race.

Here are the runners heading to the start line, led by a bagpiper.

Another wonderful event to enjoy are the Highland Dancers. Here are a few pictures of the finalists doing the Highland Fling.

We never miss the Border Collie Demonstration. Our whole family loves Dogs, and these Border Collie are amazing, they respond to whistle commands and herd these sheep so quickly.

The air is filled with bagpipe music during the pipe band competition.

This year we didn't get to the upper Field to watch any of the heavy athletics- we will have to next year. We did enjoy browsing at the vendor tents, lots of interesting treasures. Sarah found a wonderful vendor who taught us how to do her hair up in a wonderful wrapped braid. Joseph's favorite was all of all of the swords and daggers for sale. I bought a special little treasure which I will share later this week in another post.

In one of the shops I saw this miniature key chain plaid flask, it was the first thing that caught my eye, I love all things mini, and I love plaid. But how could this teetotal girl purchase a flask!! So I left it, but my sweet dear hubby, who is wonderful at noticing the little things I take a fancy to, and very stealth at buying them without my noticing, decided it would be harmless, and surprised me with the little plaid flask later. I was very surprised. Here is a picture of my surprise.

We enjoyed the delicious Scottish foods- Scottish Meat Pies and Bangers (a sausage) are our favorites. So much our favorites that they were eaten before I even thought to take a photo. So we got a photo of the stand. The Fish and Chips were also excellent - of course with plenty of Malt Vinegar!! I am hoping to learn how to make the Scottish Meat Pies this summer, they are made a little differently from the meat pies I normally make- the crust is a bit different than a standard pie crust, and I will need to see if our local meat counter sells ground lamb.

The weather report called for a very wet and rainy day, which for the highland games is not very common, usually it is almost too hot. We came prepared with umbrellas, but ended up having lovely weather- not too hot, and no rain while we were there. The sky was beautiful, and lots of planes kept passing overhead, so I had to get a picture.

The Highland Games are ended with two really awesome events- the Caber Toss and the Parade of Massed Bands.

The Caber Toss is an event were very strong men pick up a caber, which is a tall tree trunk size timber, and throw it into the air and try to completely flip it. It is a little hard to describe without seeing it in person. I would highly encourage everyone to check out some of the better videos on youtube of caber tossing, it is a very exciting sport, and we all look forward to watching the competition. Here are a few pictures of The Caber Toss.

Here is the Caber arriving.

Here are pictures of the Caber Toss.

The Parade of massed bands is really something to see, all of the various pipe bands come together on the main field to play together, I love how they all work together so well. Here are some pictures below. I took some video of the mass bands, and am having trouble uploading the video, if I can figure it out, I will post the video of the massed bands later in the week.

Here are some pipe band members on their way to mass bands.

Here are the bands gathered on the field. They ended with Amazing Grace & Scotland The Brave.

The whole day was so enjoyable, I love spending time with my family and building wonderful memories with them.