Thursday, June 27, 2013

Sarah's Graduation

Every year in June our church recognizes the teens who have graduated.  For years I have enjoyed this event, watching the kids grow up, and seeing their slide show, reminding us what they were like as little ones, and how they've grown.  This year my daughter Sarah graduated.  Gary and I spent a day looking through all the cute pictures of her childhood, picking out pictures for the Graduation Sunday slide show.  What a trip down memory lane it was!  My how time flies!

I loved these smiley pictures of Sarah as a baby, so cute!  I loved dressing her up, and she loved her hats and bows!

Here are some pictures of Sarah during her early school years, very sweet, quiet, and inquisitive.

Sarah has always loved music and enjoyed her dance classes very much.

And here she is now, ready to get started on her journey as an adult.

 Graduation week was fun, many of the graduates decorated their caps.  Back when I was in school we were not allowed to decorate our caps, so when I heard what the kids were doing I was a bit hesitant but then I was assured that the principal himself said it was allowed.  Sarah got together with a group of girls and they all went out to Michael's Craft store for supplies and spent a day decorating their caps.  They all turned out great, and at graduation I noticed quite a few kids had done a really creative job decorating their caps.  We live in a small town, and the event is not super formal, so I think it added a really fun element.

Sarah decorated hers with cascading patterned gems.  Here she is all ready to head out to graduation.

Here is a view of her cap, which was very helpful for spotting her in the crowd.

Here is a close up of her cap.  Very sparkly!

The ceremony was fun, it was nice seeing all of the kids, some we have known since kindergarten.  Afterwards there were lots of hugs, and pictures.

We had a nice little celebratory lunch afterward, then Sarah spent the rest of the evening with friends.

Graduation Sunday at church was so nice.  We have attended our small rural church from the time Sarah was just a little baby, so many of our church members have known Sarah for her whole life.  Our pastor had each graduate stand up in front of the congregation, and church members would share words of wisdom, and inspiring bible verses for each graduate.  Then we prayed for each graduate.  The pastor also gave each graduate a beautiful prayer journal.  It was so wonderful to see my daughter and the other graduates loved by our church family, it is so nice to have such a strong and loving community to be a part of our children's lives.  Gary and I also chose a special verse for Sarah.  It was very hard to choose just one, there are so many wonderful verses.

We chose a passage from Psalm 37:3-6

3.Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. 4.Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. 5.Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: 6.He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Psalm 37:3-6

I am so very proud of Sarah, and I look forward to being her mom during this next phase of her life.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Happy First Day of Summer and Taking a Micro-Hike

Happy first day of summer!  Today we are having a much needed break in the rain, and the sky welcomed in the summer with nice warm sunshine and lots of big white fluffy clouds.  They were so pretty I had to take a few pictures.

I also thought this sunny day lily was a pretty sight.

I am so eager for the sunny weather to begin, I love getting outside, and taking time to explore nature. I love exploring during all of the other seasons as well, but the sunshine really draws me out, I just love it!  Today I pulled out a book called Sharing Nature with Children by Joseph Cornell, this is a classic book about sharing nature with children, written for parents and teachers.  There are so many wonderful ideas for exploring nature.  One idea caught my attention today- The Micro-Hike.

All you need to take a micro-hike is a piece of string between 3 and 5 feet long, and other helpful items might be a magnifying glass, and a pencil and sketch pad.

Find an interesting spot in your garden, or a park, or when you  are out exploring nature, and lay down the string.  Then carefully inch by inch really explore that space.  Pretend you are a small bug walking through the space, think of the space from that view point.  Be sure to look nice and close.  With children, have fun talking about what they see, and what they imagine about that space.

I decided to try this out in my backyard, but sadly couldn't find my magnifying glass anywhere.  It is really interesting to look at a small space and really explore that space, it really gets you to look a the details of the individual plants, in this case, weeds that have filled up my corner garden bed, there were so many different plants it was interesting.  As well as all the little insects that you start to notice are present in that space.

We did a similar activity with one of my favorite teachers in grade school. Instead of exploring along the length of a string, he gave us a string tied into a circle, that we laid out on the ground at a nearby forested park, and carefully observed what was inside the string circle.  I remember we spent quite some time observing and sketching out what we saw in our nature journals.

The micro-hike is an idea meant for a children's activity, but I think it can be just as enjoyable as an adult as well.  Sort of a nice relaxing little nature activity, and a good time to pull out the sketch pad, or camera.  I love getting outside, even for just a few minutes and get a little dose of nature, it is always rejuvenating.

Have a wonderful summer day!

I would highly recommend Sharing Nature With Children by Joseph Cornell you can read more about it through my Amazon link.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Mid-June Garden Update & Mushroom Country Fried Potatoes

Summer is only one week away!  School is out and Sarah's graduation went very well (I'll be posting on her graduation very soon).  The garden is a little slow to start this season, the weather is a bit back and forth, but in between cool and rainy days we have been getting a little heat that I am hoping will spur some growth of our veggies.  Here is what is going on in the garden this week.

The star of the garden this week - my little potato patch.  This week two of the potato bags have blossoms!  

All of the potato plants are doing well, in the next week or so I will check them from the side velcro flap on the potato bags and see if there are any small potatoes to try.

Quite a few of the seeds I planted this year had trouble with germination- you can see the spotty germination of my green beans, I have planted more in the gaps in hopes that I can get the bed filled in more.  I had this trouble last year too, and had to replant the whole bed, so I was glad I had some germination this year.  I may have to try a different variety next year.

Here is my bed of "purple" green beans, better germination, but still a few empty spots, the garlic in the back is doing well, and little tiny leeks are up next to the garlic as well.

My worst germination issue is with my Zucchini patch, Out of roughly 50 planted seeds this is all that came up!

I wrote to Burpee and they sent me replacement seeds so I can try again, I just got them in today, so fingers crossed that they germinate and then catch up.  For now my zucchini hopes are all on these few little plants!

My black radish plants are doing well, they have all come up, and I have thinned them a bit.  It does look like some little critter has been snacking on the leaves, I am hoping they will leave me a few!  It may be time to pull out the insecticidal soap, I don't like using chemicals in my garden, but last year I did find a brand that is supposed to be safe and for use in organic gardens.

I planted two pots of basil, the standard variety did not germinate, and I am replanting it, but the purple variety is doing well, look at the cute tiny little purple basil leaves!  I will be excited to see how they turn out!

The green onions are doing well.  I love cooking with green onions, and it is so nice to be able to walk right outside to get them instead of running to the grocery store.

The corn variety I was growing in my tubs- Burpee's On Deck variety, made for growing in small gardens, also had germination issues, unfortunately they were all sold out, so I couldn't get replacements, out of the whole seed packet only 3 little plants germinated, so I may decide to grow a standard variety just for fun.  We really had a lot of germination issues this year, more than ever.  I may have to experiment with different seeds next year.  What is your favorite seed brand?

I spotted a volunteer nasturtium, which I was glad to find since I didn't plant any this year.

The lettuce is doing beautifully, I am hoping it gets a little bit bigger, but otherwise it is ready to start using.

So that's what 's going on in our garden, as well as lots of weeding.  At the end of June I will be starting seeds for my Fall garden, they are all ready and waiting to go.  :)

This last week I made a yummy side dish that the whole family enjoyed, and featured one of our favorites- Mushrooms.

Mushroom Country Fried Potatoes

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Here's how I made it.  Cut up one red or white onion ( I had red on hand), and saute in a little olive oil.

When onions have begun to turn translucent, add chopped mushrooms. I used Mini Portobello mushrooms, but you could use standard white mushrooms, or crimini, or a mixture.  I used about two packs worth of mushrooms for four servings, adjust how much you use based on how many you are serving.  I also added a few dashes of Italian herbs, I love rosemary and thyme with mushrooms.  Add a little more olive oil if needed.  Saute until mushrooms have cooked down and liquid from mushrooms has cooked down.

With a slotted spoon transfer mixture to a bowl, and set aside while potatoes begin cooking.

To the same pan you used to cook mushrooms and onions, add enough olive oil to fry potatoes, not too much though or they will be greasy, it really differs based on the starchiness of the potato.  Cut up precooked and cooled pealed potatoes into bite sized pieces, I used four large russets, but any variety will do.  I always cook extra potatoes to keep in the fridge for breakfast or quick dinner side dishes, I will often cook up the whole bag and keep them in the fridge, that way you only have to turn on the oven once, and you have potatoes for the week.

Fry up the potatoes just like you would hash browns, add salt and pepper to taste, we love lots of fresh cracked pepper, add some more Italian herbs if desired, cook until they have a nice golden brown color.

Then add back in the mushroom onion mixture and cook until everything is combined and heated through.

Serve along side your breakfast, or with sausages for dinner, this also would make a wonderful Vegan main dish that could be served along with some steamed greens or a salad for a nice Vegan/Vegetarian alternative.  
The mushrooms really give the potatoes a hearty flavor.

Hope everyone is doing well!  

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

My Cookbook Shelf

So this past month I have been very busy re-organizing and spring cleaning.  I have wanted to move my cookbooks closer to my computer work station for awhile now, this week I finally finished.  Now I have my recipes and cookbooks close by, for meal planning, and researching different recipes.  I do not have a huge collection of cookbooks, but there are definitely some favorites I have added to my collection over the years.
I thought it would be fun to share what's on my cookbook shelf!

This shelf used to hold dollhouse miniatures, and was lined with decorative paper, I really liked the pattern, so I left up the lining on the back of the shelf.  I also have put some of my rock and mineral collection to good use, I filled a decorative glass container with some of my rocks, and it makes for a nice bookend.

Going from right to left- On the left I separated out the blue colored books, The first book is a wonderful baking book I picked up at Ikea, with lots of wonderful Scandinavian treats, the pictures are great.  The next two are two little books about tea time recipes that I have had for quite some time, they have great tea sandwich recipes, as well as some recipes that have tea as the ingredient.  I love tea sandwiches- you can read my post Tea Sandwich Tutorials for some of my favorite teatime recipes.

Moving down the row- The Original Fannie Farmer 1896 Cookbook, I love old fashioned recipes, and I have a lot of fun looking through this cookbook, it is full of recipes, including interesting things like meals to prepare for the sick, they really new how to nurse people back then with proper food.

The next book is called  More-With-Less Cookbook (World Community Cookbook) this is one of my favorites, it was written by a Mennonite woman, and goes along with her book Living More with Less I used to pour over these books when I was a young housewife, lots of wonderful simple meals, and teaching about simple living, I would highly recommend these books. Keeping with the simple living theme the next book is  Simple Food for the Good Life: Random Acts of Cooking and Pithy Quotations and is written by Helen Nearing, I was drawn to this cookbook after reading The Good Life: Helen and Scott Nearing's Sixty Years of Self-Sufficient Living, I love simple wholesome recipes!

The next three are favorites of mine from a time when I was obsessed with Medieval History, I love history, and I really love thinking about how people really lived, so of course I had to read about how they cooked
and what they ate, from peasants to royalty. Pleyn Delit: Medieval Cookery for Modern Cooks Some of the recipes are written in Old English as well as the translated modern version, and comes along with the history behind the dish, as well as sample menus, very fun to read.  The Medieval Cookbook: Revised Edition is the next book I enjoyed, more history and recipes, and nice illustrations.  I am excited to try some more recipes from these books. Medieval history and their cooking sparked my interest in peasant cooking, and I found Celtic Folklore Cooking to be full of wonderful recipes, along with more history and tradition.

Moving down the row are some of my newer cookbooks- Nourishing Traditions:  The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats was one I bought two years ago, very interesting information on nutrition different than mainstream teaching on nutrition, love the recipes in this book for soups and broths! The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl was one I picked up a few years back, after reading her blog. I really enjoy all of her recipes, I love her cinnamon roll recipe, and her jalapeno popper recipe is a summer favorite around here, and the reason I grow a whole patch of peppers!  Gordon Ramsay Makes It Easy - yep, despite his temper, Gary and I love watching Gordon Ramsay's cooking shows, and have been watching them for years. This cookbook has some beautiful recipes, most too rich for my blood, and I have yet to attempt a risotto, but the chapter on English Breakfast was appealing to me, as well as some other traditional British recipes that look interesting!

The next books are my cookie cook books- Most of my cookie recipes have been passed down from my Mom and Gram, but every year when I make a ton of Christmas cookies, which you can read about here and here, I also love to consult these two cookbooks- Martha Stewart's Cookies: The Very Best Treats to Bake and to Share the recipes in this cookbook always turn out delicious, and it has our go-to recipe for Snickerdoodles  that my daughter loves to bake.  1001 Cookie Recipes: The Ultimate A-To-Z Collection of Bars, Drops, Crescents, Snaps, Squares, Biscuits, and Everything That Crumbles This has every kind of cookie you can think of, I love that you can look up cookies in this cookbook by their main ingredient, so if your in the mood for a cookie with raisins or maybe you bought too many dates and need to use them up, this cookbook is the place to look.

The little spiral bound book is a very old cookbook on international cuisine that I bought back in high school as part of my French club fundraiser, it is actually the first cookbook I ever purchased. You can find old copies of it on Amazon.  This cookbook has a wonderful brownie recipe as well as some delicious Norwegian Apple Squares that I have made for years.

And another of my older cookbooks that I got when I was first married, New Great American Brand Name Recipes Cookbook I used to pour over the recipes to plan out our meals.  Lots of good classic American recipes.

Two more vintage cookbooks on the shelf - Betty Crocker's Cookbook for Boys and Girls, which I had as a child and growing up we made lots of the recipes from this book, so I had to hunt down a copy when I had children, fun cookbook!  Also my vintage Popcorn cookbook, this has many delicious recipes for topping and flavoring popcorn.  I just love vintage 70's orange! :)

Lastly I have a couple of Taste of Home Annuals- My Grandma used to buy me a new subscription every year, then we would talk about the different recipes that each subscription would have, so whenever I see Taste of Home I think of Grandma!

So that's my cookbook shelf.  What is your favorite cookbook?  I would love to hear what your go-to cookbook is. :)

Thanks for Reading!