Saturday, May 30, 2009

Hello Ladies....

Today was a day to check on the bees. Their jar of sugar syrup has a bit in it so I left them to finish and alleviate some of the work they have drawing out the comb. I had hoped to fill the second brood box with the rest of the frames but his will have to wait until the syrup snacking is through.

I took the opportunity to flip the entrance reducer. I think they are getting organized enough that a larger opening is a good idea. I inadvertently flipped their entrance to the opposite side. It caused a bit of confusion as you can see.

Once the larger entrance was positioned where the original entrance was all seemed to be right with the hive.

Aren't they amazing?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Through the Screen Door

I love our front porch and love to look out the door to see what's going on. Lawn mowing, gathering friends or a game of Pickle - it's always a great view of the neighborhood.

Last weekend I happened to look up while in the kitchen and this is what I saw. If Daddy is home and it's a nice day this is consistently the view through the screen door.

I think it's my favorite.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Our Little Robin

Yesterday afternoon, while playing with a friend, Max found a baby robin. It was sitting in the middle of a driveway, not under trees or being guarded by any hysterical parents. Being my mother's daughter, I had to go get it.

Once when I was a kid a robin's nest fell from a tree in the back yard. They were the ABC Triplets - Albert, Becky and Cathy. Unfortunately, only one made it to adulthood. When he was ready, we released him and he was gone for several days.

I very vividly remember the day he came back. It was pouring rain and we had been to the grocery store. Albert's (or Al-burd as my brother called him) angry chirping could be heard through the back porch door. He marched in the door clearly irritated to have been in the rain. He dried out, spent the night in his laundry basket home then left the next day never to return.

When I picked up this little bird he seemed to melt into the warmth of my cupped hands. We put him in a shoe box with a dish towel and checked on him a few times. The way his little body sagged - I didn't think he'd make it through the night. Gratefully, I was wrong.

After a 12 hour nap, he awakened with his scrawny neck craning and beak wide open. He was ready for breakfast. We dug some worms and he gobbled 4 small ones down and settled in for a (very brief) nap.

At the rehab facility we were happy to hear that we had done a good job. Our little bird is snuggled in with 4 others of the same age and in time, will be released.

Sometimes Mother Nature needs a little help. I hope she is as proud as we are.

Friday, May 22, 2009

I Love Chicago by Max

Last Saturday, my friend Owen, Ella, my mom, and I went to the Green Festival on Navy Pier in Chicago.

Here is a picture of the skyline taken from Navy Pier.

My favorite things about Chicago: Chicago-style hot dogs, The Cubs, Millennium Park, Wrigley Field, and Navy Pier.

I love Chicago!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Spring Garden

We are so excited about our little garden this year. It's starting to wake up and leaves us anticipating the wonderful meals we'll have this summer. The lettuce patch is starting to fill in nicely. This year we have more varieties than ever with two mesclun mixes, romaine, spinach and arugula.

The rhubarb was a gift from a friend years ago and is full of slender stalks. I've picked some already and can't decide what to make first. Compote, pie, crisp, fool, muffins or cake. I'm leaning towards a Lemon Buttermilk Rhubarb Bundt Cake.

Everyone loves sugar snap peas and they are so fun to grow. They are on a teepee and I think you can see them grow as the day progresses. These are Amish Snap Peas. The variegated leaves are so pretty. We'll cook them, make then into salads and eat them right off the vine.

I am so proud to have gotten the garden in so early this year. Usually the best laid plans don't work out and I scramble to do what I can. There is a lot more to come from our plot this year - we will eat well. Tomatoes, chard, garlic, carrots, beets, Rose Finn potatoes, honeydew melon, acorn squash, raspberries, broccoli and many, many herbs.

I can't wait.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Love That Dog

I love my dog. Anyone who's met him knows he is the best dog ever. We got Murray 14 years ago this July. I should say he found us. Someone had taken him to our vet to be put to sleep and seeing him as exceptional, they asked if they could find him a home. When they said they'd found the perfect dog for us, meeting him was formality for me. The rest is history.

Murray has survived two cats, three kids and one Henry. It's just been in the last year that people say he looks aged as opposed being perceived as a puppy. I try not to get bent out of shape but am quick to defend him, sharing his fence leaping prowess and energetic games of chase.

Murray will be 6 in July and I love him more than you could ever know.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Star Is Born!

Last night we had the distinct pleasure of attending the theatrical debut of Mighty Minds, A Musical That Makes Learning Fun at LWS. The portrayal of a third grade student worried about a week of standardized testing played by Ella was enchanting. Her singing and dancing talents were well highlighted. Her sparkling personality was captivating. We anxiously await her next dramatic endeavor.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Our Entrepreneur

We are all so proud of the entrepreneur in our house. Doug has continued to develop his Double D's Sauces business. It started with Ghost and now includes Green. He has developed a following as well as recipes, resources, packaging and labels. There are many hot sauces on the market but these I love.

I think it takes tons of courage to be an entrepreneur. It's easy to have ideas and grand plans but really tough to see it to fruition. I am so proud of him and can't wait to watch his business grow!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mother's Day Morels

After a homemade and hot Mother's Day breakfast made by my family, the kids and I did a little morel hunting. We had lots of luck, finding 11 to add to the 8 we had at home from previous outings. Almost a pound!

Last night, I made a great dinner that included this amazing chicken dish, local asparagus and smashed new potatoes. It was delicious and even the Downings not fond of mushrooms LOVED it!

Chicken in Morel Cream Sauce

2 1/2 to 3 c. whole morels (or 10 oz. dry)
3 T. unsalted butter
2 T. olive oil
4 boneless chicken breast, skin on
3/4 c, flour
salt and pepper to taste
1 shallot, chopped
3/4 c. dry white wine
3/4 c. heavy cream
2 T. fresh thyme
Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Briefly soak mushrooms in salted water to rinse out any bugs then gently dry. If using dry mushrooms rehydrate in hot water till softened. Slice mushrooms and set aside. In a large skillet over medium-high heat add butter and olive oil.

Season each breast with a little salt and pepper and then dredge with flour. Shake off the excess and add to the hot pan, skin side down. Cook on both sides until golden brown, remove and set aside.

Reduce heat to medium and add shallot and mushrooms. Saute until fragrant. Add wine and increase heat to high, allowing wine to reduce by half.

Lower heat to medium and slowly add cream and thyme, whisk to incorporate. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Return chicken to pan and cook chicken completely through. Remove from heat and top each chicken breast with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Garnish with fresh sprigs of thyme.

Enjoy the taste of spring!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Homemade Calzones

The Shackleford kids came over on Saturday night. I thought it would be the perfect time to make calzones. Something different than pizza. Rather than make at least 9 small ones, I made 4 large ones.
I made two filling bases and changed up a few of the ingredients in each. This is ricotta, spinach, sauteed pepper and onion with hot Italian sausage.

I anticipated this to be the kids' favorite. Ricotta, Jamie Oliver's tomato sauce, pepperoni, oregano and mozzarella.

Roll out the dough into an 8-10" circle and pile the filling onto one side.

Fold the dough into a half moon, dampen the edges with water then fold and seal. Let them rise a bit before putting them into the oven.

The finished product. Unfortunately, they weren't a real hit with the kids but what's important is that regardless of what they ate, the kids had a really fun night.

And I thought I was pretty cool to make calzones.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Walk To The River

Henry and I took a walk down to the river in search of more violets. On the way we smelled many flowers. Li-lashes are Hen's favorite.

Apple blossoms are a close second. He suggested we cut off some branches and plant them in our yard like flowers.

We saw many pretty things. This looked so quaint and gave us more li-lashes to smell.

We heard lots of "honking" geese and even a fire truck. And we did find all the violets we could ever want.

Even though we sat in goose poop while picking our flowers, it was still a really wonderful walk!

Morels in May

There are many superstitions about morel hunting.

Here are a few...

#1 - Wait until after the first thunderstorm in May.
#2 - Wait until the apple blossoms fall.
#3 - Mother's Day weekend is prime time.
#4 - It should be warm enough not to wear a coat.
#5 - Don't carry a bag. If you do, you won't find anything.
#6 - Always leave one so there will be more.
#7 - Don't ever, ever share your hunting ground.

Today, I enjoyed the thrill of the hunt and intuition tells me there will be more.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Swine Break of '09

This is the why I am not annoyed with the whole Swine Flu thing.

It occurred to me this morning they'll probably not have a week together like this, just the two of them, for a very long time - if ever again. Henry will start kindergarten in the fall and Jake will move into 7th grade. Big things are ahead of both of them, and while I know that they'll always be close, things will change.

If there is an upside to the Swine Flu Freak-Out, this is certainly it.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Trees Should Be Climbed

I think kids should climb trees.

At the yellow house, we don't have trees for climbing. Big, old maples that drop loads of whirlygigs that sprout and need to be plucked. Thousands of sticks falling with the slightest of wind. Tons of leaves that fall - the last week of pick up. As grateful as we are for our troublesome trees, I am bummed we don't have tree-climbing trees.
Our neighbors have trees for climbing and are kind enough to let our kids climb. I envy them climbing so fearlessly. For me the best part of tree climbing was figuring out how to get where I wanted to go. Then being so proud when I got there, looking down from above.
It's a physical problem solving challenge kids embrace. It's a right of passage on the day you're tall enough to reach the bottom branch. It's the perfect thing to do afterschool on a spring day.
It's like going to a rock climbing facility, donning straps and headgear after signing a waiver and handing over $20.
I think kids should climb trees.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Violets and Grandma

On May Day, and many days in between, I think of my Grandma. Years ago, I was maybe eight, she introduced me to May Day.

We went to downtown Tolono, which literally consisted of a library, barber shop, hardware store, a tavern and Maggio's grocery and, picked up an out-of-date wallpaper book. She was probably wearing a dress, most likely with a chain belt. I recall thinking how neat it was to get a wallpaper book of your very own. As I write this now I wonder if that May Day was a May Day at all....

Once home, she taught us, my brother and I, how to make wallpaper cones and staple on a handle. Now it was time to pick the flowers.

My Grandma loved violets. LOVED them. This love is something I shared with her. I don't know if I love them because they are so sweet or because they are so intertwined with wonderful memories of her. Regardless, I am thrilled to see them pop up in the spring. While some think they are weeds, I envy those lawns where the vibrant purple sprawl is abundant.

Once the violets were picked, and if I know my Grandmother, stems wrapped in damp paper towel, secured with foil and, most likely a rubber band, was time to deliver. The whole point is to surprise someone with flowers. Sort of a nice "ding-dong ditch", you ring the bell and run. Surprising the recipient and not getting caught are thrilling.

When Doug and I bought our first house on Hamlet Street, I would bring violets home from my Grandparent's yard and plant them in mine. Six years later, when we moved again, I transplanted those clumps at the yellow house.

They now thrive in my yard with memories of Grandma.

Friday, May 1, 2009

May Flowers

Knock, knock, knock.....

Happy May Day!

Hive Sweet Hive

After following a master and receiving information only years of experience can impart, I arrived home with my bees. The ladies noisily arrived surrounding the queen tucked inside in her own little box within. Here the feeding can is pried from the box.

After a quick spray of simple syrup and a tap on the ground the queen is removed and the girls are delicately "dumped" into the brood box. I think my technique needs work but they seemed to have landed safely.

The little wooden box in the middle is the queen. It has a candy plug that she and her ladies in waiting eat through to free her. The others are gently brushed in before covering and setting in a feeding jar to get them started.

I am now the proud mother of another brood. I must admit that I do feel a bit giddy like a new mom. I am constantly looking out the window just to see the hive sitting in the corner of my garden. Anticipating. While I am grateful I won't be awakened every two hours as with a new baby, I do want to constantly check on them.

I have to wait a week before disturbing them. Until then, I'll enjoy looking out the window and knowing they are busy at work.

Thanks to Jake for acting as photographer. I think these are the first pictures of me since I delivered him. Ha,ha,ha!

No, seriously.