Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ella is 9!

Today Ella turned 9! She was such a sweet and easy going baby, actually the easiest of all. She is still the sweetest girl we know - kind of heart, empathic and gentle.

Her cake of choice is similar to most years. Ella loves her chocolate. Cocoa whipped cream and pink and brown sprinkles decorate the top. The little white ones are bones which were requested months ago. She loves dogs almost as much as they love her!

Happy Birthday! We love you Ella Bella!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Raspberry Time

Thus far it has been an exceptional raspberry year. I'd like to thank the Yellow House Apiary Girls for all of their hard work. I believe they are the reason for this year's success.

Everyone loves raspberries at our house. Our modest patch is providing good snacking for everyone - not just the early bird (i.e. Max). We will be picking some more from a local patch because I have many recipes in need of cups and cups.....stay tuned!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Holly's Chickens

This is Peeps. My "oldest" and amazing friend Holly hatched her and hand raised her. She is the nicest chicken you could ever meet. She has quite a personality and knows exactly how fabulous she is. After falling in love with Peeps they decided they needed more chickens and added Penelope, Henrietta and Buttercup to the mix.

Sometimes we get to chicken-sit, a job we all love dearly. It's fun to interact with them, feed them watermelon and hunt for eggs. Of course, the best part is the eggs. There is nothing quite like a farm fresh egg.

Someday I'd like to have chickens of my own but for now, chicken sitting is great practice!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Henry Works

Henry loves to work. One day I noticed him in the midst of a big project. Apparently, all of the child-sized chairs needed to be in the fort. As you can see, it was quite an undertaking and one he took on alone.
In talking with friends, we all seem to wonder how to instill a good work ethic in our children. We wonder if leading by example will really work in the long run. Hopefully, Henry's will to work and desire to accomplish a task will continue and lead him into a successful life. I think it will and I am so proud.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Dog Days of Summer

The third day of summer and it was oppressively hot. Too hot to do much of anything but sit on the porch and eat popsicles.

Henry decided to go with an orange "popsible". Everyone needed a popsicle...

...even Furry Murray. These are the dog days of summer - aren't they?

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Yellow House In Summer

In May 1998 our house was featured in Better Homes and Gardens, in an article called "Putting on a Fresh Face". The concept was how much an addition, or in this case a porch, can change the look of a home. We didn't own the house then but we like to think the house looks better having morphed into our home.

While home ownership is an never ending, uphill battle our years in the yellow house have been worth it. I plan to snap a picture on the first day of each season, just to document how it changes and remind me to appreciate the yellow house that is our home.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Lawn Crew

This was the veiw through the screen door yesterday. Henry loves to mow the lawn with his Daddy and very seldom does Doug ever mow alone.

It's never too early to hone the skills of the young to take over the job. The bonus is hanging out with one of your biggest fans!

Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 19, 2009

We Ate Bacon

Last Saturday, post-sleepover pancakes and bacon were on the menu. Where did we purchase such beautiful bacon? Funny you should ask because we didn't BUY it we MADE it!

Meaty and flavorful with just enough smoke. As you may have already guessed - it was DELICIOUS!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

They All Screamed for Ice Cream

Every year I get to teach an ice cream making class and it always inspires me to make some for the kids. I bought some fresh strawberries at the green market last week knowing their fate would be the ice cream freezer. Holly's eggs made the custard a beautiful pale yellow. The hardest part is over and the custard is ready to chill.

Into the freezer for about 30 minutes....

Ready to scoop...

Into the mouths of happy kids!

Is it officially summer now?

Max is 11!

Yesterday was Max's 11th Birthday! On every one of my kids' birthdays, I find myself thinking about the day of arrival. Max had little sense of urgency (which is a trait that holds true today) and arrived 9 days late. With the exception of a rough spot between 4 and 6 months, he was a content baby. Quietly observing as Jake entertained him with constant chatter and book "reading". Still an incredible listener and observer, he spouts statistics and facts and can find a teeny, tiny toad amidst tall grass. He is intelligent, creative and heart melting-ly empathic.

I think the birthday cake shot is as important as the birthday cake. This year Max choose Lemon Cream Pie. An excellent choice for an excellent kid. Party on, Max.

Friday, June 12, 2009

I Love Painted Signs...

I love old, faded signs painted on buildings. This is one on a building near the Riverwalk in Batavia. The time and creative talent that went into this is reflective of its bygone era. Work of a quality craftsman withstanding the test of time.

Way cooler than anything on 88. Don't you think?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Many Colored Day

Red ripe berries...
Pretty pink peonys...

Gorgeous greens...

At a great green market...

On a gross gray day...

Monday, June 8, 2009

Mr. Hodge

Today was the last day of school. It is my most favorite day of the year. I love to have everyone home. I love to have no schedule. This year though is bittersweet since it represents some ends and some beginnings sometimes I think I am not ready for. Jake will be a 7th grader, Max is moving into the middle school, 4th grade for Ella and my baby will become a kindergartner.

I think everyone has a favorite teacher for whom they have unwavering loyalty. Mine was Mrs. Averill. Mr. Hodge is Max's Mrs. Averill. From the first day Mr. Hodge just "got" Max. He appreciates him, understands his foibles and always inspires him. This was his first year in his own classroom so his fresh perspective and dedication created great energy for the kids. I don't know if Ella or Henry will someday be taught by Mr. Hodge but I do know that he has had a tremendous impact on Max.

Isn't that the best gift a teacher can give?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

I'm a Living History Geek

Ella has just finished her 3rd Grade history report. She chose to focus on settler life in the 1850's. I couldn't have been more pleased. I love living history. Last Sunday, we went to Garfield Farm and Primrose Farm for pictures and research. She did a beautiful job writing about what she learned and took many of the pictures herself.

Every summer my grandparents would load the grandkids into the Delta 88 and take us to experience living history. We went to Arthur for Amish life, Springfield for New Salem and Lincoln and many, many cemeteries. They instilled in me this love of history. I’m not great at remembering dates but could hang out in a summer kitchen all day long.

Taking a horse-drawn wagon ride, checking out an 1850’s kitchen garden and seeing lots of animals (especially the chickens) was a wonderful way to spend a beautiful day with Beanie. While I'll enjoy a few years respite from the 3rd grade history project, I can't wait to hit more living history museums this summer - hopefully all the kids will want to come with us.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Watching the World Go By...

Yesterday while trying to get things done I happened to catch this through the screen door. This Henry-sized wicker chair sits on the porch and it has gotten lots of use. He was watching the world go by and eating a green popsicle, which is the only green thing he'll eat.

If I was more camera savvy I'd have taken a video of this because in this case, the accompanying audio would be worth at least a thousand words.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

We Made Bacon!

After seeing a demo at the Green City Market by Sam of Blueprint restaurant in Chicago, we decided to make our own bacon. The first step was to gather all the spices needed to make the cure. Coriander, star anise, peppercorn, cinnamon, chili pepper amongst others. Everything I need cost about $7 and I have LOTS left for more bacon.

Once the spices are toasted and tossed together, they are coarsely ground. This can be done in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle.

I was able to purchase a pork belly from a local hog farmer. This whole belly weighed about 7 1/2 pounds. Each side is rubbed with pure maple syrup then th spices are pressed onto the pork.

Now it's time fore curing - it's tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and set on a tray in the fridge. Every other day the pork is turned to ensure evening curing. On the sixth day it's rinsed and left to air dry in the fridge overnight.

In to the smoker until an internal temperature of 150 degrees is reached.
It's done. Left to cool and ready to slice. Sampling of our bacon proves that it is the best bacon we've ever eaten. Now are thoughts turn to BLT's......