Thursday, July 30, 2015

Garden: Midseason Success and Failure

How's your summer going? Ours has been so full of so many good things. I am so thankful for this season with our family. We've been having a lot of adventures together. But even when we are just at home we are staying busy. Our garden is one thing we all work on together. 

I am so thankful that we get to have a garden, and even more thankful that we don't rely on it alone to be able to eat. We are reading the Little House books right now and thinking about how families used  to have to grow enough to survive gives me a whole new respect for homesteading life back then. 

Every year we seem to have different challenges in the garden. This summer it's often felt like we are failing out there. Squash beetles have killed some of our squash, we have planted peppers three different times and they just keep dying. Twice I planted beets and something ate them the minute they come up. Half the green beans I planted didn't come up and none of the cucumbers. We started tomatoes earlier than ever and we've had fewer than ever ripen up. Nonetheless, the season's not over, and we are enjoying some success. Here's a few things that did work and are making us happy. 

The few beets that did come up have beautiful tops. I can't wait to sauté these up with some butter and snow peas. Our snow peas also did great this year and we picked several bowls full. 

Some friends of ours gave us this windmill. I love seeing it in the garden. It's perfect for our little city farm. We planted some spaghetti squash nearby and they have over taken the bottom of the windmill. There's five good-size spaghetti squash on this trellis.  The ones at the bottom are huge!

One of our planters was more weeds than veggies. A lot of things we planted just didn't come up there, so we pulled out the young onions (which are still a usable size), and tilled it up and started over a couple weeks ago. Everything else below we picked in the last couple of days. When I put it all together I realized, we aren't failing. Some things are working, and seeing this pile of stuff we grew makes me happy, and eating it together will make us healthy. What more could we ask for? It's enough. I'm still hoping for more tomatoes in the next couple months though ; )

I hope you are enjoying the fruits of your labor, whatever they may be, and finding that they are enough. Happy summer! We'll be taking advantage of the last couple weeks of summer fun before school schedule starts here. Oh how I love these long and full days.

You are loved!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Family Fun Night: Paddington

Sometimes on Friday nights we like to do something special with the boys. Usually nothing fancy just a good time together: game night, a movie, camping in the backyard or a free activity in town. A few weeks ago we had a Paddington Bear night. We got the book from the library, rented the movie from Redbox, and made special desserts and snacks to munch on while we watched the movie. Something about having a theme makes the night even more special for them.

They both had these plain teddy bears. I turned them into Paddingtons using some felt and fleece I had left over from other projects.  The hat was no-sew I just hot glued two pieces of felt together and  added a little brown ribbon. For the coat I just traced the body of the bear from the knees up (plus about a 1/2 inch all the way around) onto two layers of blue fleece. I made the sleeves extra long so I could roll them up as a cuff. Stuffed animal clothes are really easy to make. Felt and fleece are great because they don't frey and you can do minimal sewing or just hot glue. Older kids would probably have fun making the clothes themselves with felt, scissors and a little help with hot glue. 

For dessert we had ice cream, marmalade and teddy grahams.

The marmalade is really good if you put some in a dish and warm it up for a few seconds in the microwave then pour it over the ice cream. Yum.

We also made a s'mores mix with the Teddy Grahams, chocolate chips and mini marshmallows.

We loved our Paddington night. Spending time together doesn't have to be expensive or complicated, but I feel like we have to do these things on purpose or the weeks just slip away. Maybe your family would like a Paddington night? : ) I hope you are having some fun family time this summer! 4th of July, here we come!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Apricot Appetizer

Hi there! I hope you are staying cool. (ha that just made me think of year books --"Stay cool 4ever, see ya next year!") Not like that cool, although obvs you are that cool or you wouldn't be reading this.  

Anyway, I thought today I'd share an easy summer appetizer we tried recently. 

Apricot Appetizer Bites

You will need:

4 oz. goat cheese
1 tbsp fresh thyme (finely chopped, plus sprigs to garnish)
2 tbsp dried cranberries (or dried cherries), chopped
whole almonds
dried apricots

These are so simple and flexible I wouldn't even call this a recipe, really.  Let the goat cheese sit out at room temp for a few minutes or microwave for just a few seconds to soften first. Mix the chopped thyme and cranberries into the goat cheese. Smear the cheese onto the apricots and top with an almond. Drizzle lightly with honey and throw a few extra sprigs of thyme and cranberries on the plate to garnish. 

Pretty and delish! I love that this is a no cook appetizer, because then you really can stay cool 4ever. That's important when it's 94º warm out.
; )

Have a great day, friends!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Simple Summer

Hi Friends! I haven't posted much because we are busy doing summer!  I love summer.  I think I especially love it because in summer we bask in a free schedule, and lots of free small town activities.  I feel like I see a lot of blogs or articles about moms who can't stand having their kids home all summer. Maybe different ages are harder, but I love that we get to spend every day together in the summer--I've been looking forward to it! 

We got a reminder of what a gift this time is this week when we heard about a local 8 year old little girl who died, after getting a cancer diagnosis just 14 days ago. Everyone is devastated for this family. It makes me so glad that I am taking time to spend playing with my kids. I know I will never regret enjoying (and teaching my kids to enjoy) the simplest things. Every single day is a gift you guys, we are not guaranteed even one more. 

Additionally, the longer I live here, the more convinced I am that we live in Stars HollowThis is what we've been doing: 

A free hot air balloon festival, is always the sign that it's almost summer. 

Working on summer reading programs and visiting the library robot,

We're having picnics in the park, and going to free concerts in the park.

Farmers markets. This radish festival was over-the-top Stars Hollow. They had a radish piñata, radish toss (corn hole), radish stamping art projects, radish taste testing, and this radish jewelry making station. I am telling you, I'm pretty sure I saw Taylor and Human Kirk there.

We bought our yearly National Parks Pass; the one that gets you into all the national parks and monuments in the country. We already used it at a Cabrillo National Monument (lucky us!), and we have Rocky Mountain National Park, and about 5 more in South Dakota on the list for this summer. Things 1 & Thing 2 have their sights set on some more Jr. Ranger badges

We are starting to eat out of the garden for this season. Lots of baby greens, and several handfuls of snow peas and sugar snaps, so far. I love that Thing 1 likes going out to look for ripe veggies from the garden. He's been watching those peas like a hawk. Thing 2's favorite garden activity is eating stevia leaves, which he calls "candy plant." Some beautiful blooms from our flower garden have been brightening up our kitchen too.

That's pretty much our simple summer. I'm grateful for every day of this life, and I will not take anything for granted. I hope that you are having happy days too, Friends. 
                       "Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you will look back
 and realize they were the big things."

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Mini Float Boats

So our little girl friends in Brazil got fairy dolls and little houses (here if you missed it), but we knew the boys would probably didn't want a flower doll. We wanted to make something they could all play with together, or on their own, so we made little boats and peg boys to go with them. These were so easy, quick and cheap to make. We made 20 I think and I don't know if we even used a whole pool noodle. This is a great summer craft/toy for kids.

Here's what you need:

pool noodle
duct tape
wooden skewer
serrated knife
craft knife 

Here's how you make them:
1. Using the serrated knife (I just used a steak knife) cut a 4" piece of pool noodle.
2. Cut the 4"piece in half down the middle; then it should look like this:

3. Turn the pieces over and cut off just the round edge to make the top of the boat flat. Like this:

4. Cut a 5" piece of wooden skewer, keeping the pointed end on one side. I used smaller skewers to start with, you can see they were about 8" long, and a little thinner than average BBQ skewers. This is the perfect length for the boat, because we then used the 3" piece that we cut off to make little fishing poles.

5. To make the sail: slightly overlap 2 pieces of duct tape, 3.5" long, sticky side up. Then use 2 more pieces to cover the sticky sides, so you have duct tape on front and back. Use the scissors to trim up any sticky edges. You can use additional thin pieces if you want to make a stripe down the middle or other designs.

6. Use the craft knife to cut 2 small slits in the center of the sail, 1/2" from the top, and 1/2" from the bottom. Then slide the skewer through and insert the pointy end into the flat side of the pool noodle boat. Now you have a boat! 

If you want to make a fishing pole, just use the piece of skewer you cut off (or cut a 3" piece), and hot glue a small length of nylon thread/yarn to the top. Cut 2 small fish shapes out of felt and hot glue the thread in between them. 

To make the peg guys we actually used the fabric paints (the same ones we used on the fairy houses). These have such fine points it was really easy to do details like eyes and mustaches. They are a little quirky, but we'll call that "personality." I especially like Thing One's in the back with the "crazy eyebrows" ; ) We sent a big group of fishermen and boats to our little friends in Brazil. I think they will be given to the kids with the story of how Jesus's closest friends came to be his friends in Luke 5.  I love that story, because those guys didn't do anything different than they had been doing. They'd been fishing all night and caught nothing, but when Jesus said put out your nets one more time, they were willing to trust Him, and it made all the difference. I hope that the boys in Brazil will like them. I picture them having boat races in a little stream somewhere. I hope that these little homemade gifts are just a reminder that they are loved. I think these boats would be great for Operation Christmas Child boxes too! I hope you are enjoying summer with your favorite people!

Thanks for reading!

**To see other things we've made with pool noodles, check out these posts:
Pool noodle ball pit & Light sabers
Pool noodle basketball hoops
Pool noodle hurdles/soccer goals
Pool noodle wreath base
Pool noodle indoor putt-putt course
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