Thursday, July 26, 2012

Ciao to the Chowder

Last night I decided to try a new recipe: Corn Chowder.  We've never had it, but it sounded good to me since we all like corn.

The night prior Mike said to me, "I didn't want to say this in front of the kids, but I'm really hoping this turns out.  I really hope it doesn't taste like creamed corn.  Whoever made that stuff was an evil man; it's horrible.  But, I have low expectations, so it should be okay."

Nothing like a vote of confidence.

Mike joined us late for dinner due to some meetings.  The kids and I watched him eat it.  We had already decided he was going to hate it.  It tasted a great deal like creamed corn.  We were right.  I think he ate two spoonfuls and we dined on all the bread to fill us up.

After I try new recipes I usually write in my cookbook some notes.  Over time Mike decided that he should just tell me ideas but not write in the actual book.  He says it's safer that way for him.

When I came back in the kitchen this was his suggestion for the recipe:

Duly noted.

Friday, July 20, 2012


Over Mother's Day weekend I planted 25 perennials in our backyard.  We've had some flowers bloom and I think when they are full grown in a couple of years they will look great.  I've also figured out that a couple plants should be relocated next summer due to height and color.  I'm hoping to buy more plants next year - I'd love to see all kinds of "easy" flowers along our fence!

Our Hibiscus plants have grown pretty strong over the last few months.  I didn't think we'd see any blooms this year, but this past week things started popping!

I'm in love!  I was pretty excited about the Peonies we had open up early in the summer and know that the next few years will bring tons more blooms.  But, these flowers are GIANT and so red!  I absolutely love their color.  We are all shocked by how big they are!  There will also be a ton of them - all those big green bulbs behind them are flowers waiting to pop!

Maddie commented that they looked like they could eat you.  They do look a little menacing up close - but I think that's mostly the green bulbs behind them.  They remind me of the Venus Fly Traps.

The woman that helped me choose these commented several times how beautiful this color was going to be and she was right.  Red is my favorite color and these are a great red!  White Phlox are blooming fairly close to it and I can't wait until everything is bigger next year!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Happy 10 1/2!

Last weekend Jake celebrated his birthday with his friends.

Jake's birthday is in December super close to Christmas.  Most years when we have had a birthday party with friends we've had it during summer.  1) Late December/early January is a bear to schedule around and 2) we figured it was awful enough he got all his presents for the year within a couple days, this would spread the fun out.

We were going to celebrate in March, but then we kicked around the idea of a camping party and it was decided that summer would be better.

Invites went out and Jake was pretty happy with them:

That's right!  They were going to be sleeping in a tent!  Jake was pretty excited about that.

The day of the party the kids and I went into decorating and preparation mode.  We mostly had to work to get all the goody bags packaged.  This involved printouts, and a few IM messages to Mike who was downtown that day.  Of course, on the day he's NOT working at home, we couldn't get the printer working.

We had decided to make "hobo" bags for the boys to take home.  I found some small flashlights on clearance, and we repackaged some water bottles to personalize them.

You'll notice the labels are crooked.  This might have bothered Maddie and me extensively.  Jake was in charge of applying them and had done it on purpose because he thought they looked way better that way.  He also drew on small "nails" (circles) with a silver pen out of my scrapbook stash.

Maddie was in charge of all pictures.  I love that she "styled" the photos before taking them.

We also included s'more ingredients with instructions for how to cook them in the microwave.

(The s'mores really did include chocolate, you just can't see it.)

Everything was wrapped up in a bandanna.

Once the boys arrived we had them guess how many rocks were in a jar.  Then they spent awhile swimming and "being boys".  This involved an endless amount of yelling, jumping tricks, and references to body parts that just made me shake my head.

We roasted hot dogs over the fire.  Word to the wise: don't feed 10 year old boys hot dogs.  Things stink after awhile and the word "fart" can be heard almost every five minutes.

We had a "cool down" period of the greatest "boy craft" ever.  We had them make necklaces similar to those baseball necklaces that are so popular.  Jake and I had scoured the craft stores and found the perfect ropes to braid.  We also came up with a way to attach them together that was genius, if I do say so myself.  And I will.  These boys were SO excited about these necklaces!  We had put some stuff on the ends to stop fraying and the guys checked the necklaces every five minutes to see if they were dry.  A couple boys even came up to me and said, "Thank you so much!  I've wanted one of these necklaces forever."

After that it was war.  I mean that literally.  Mike and I sat on the couch.  Jake had finished opening presents and then the boys broke into teams and literally ran up and down our two flights of stairs for a couple hours killing each other.  There were double agents, sneak attacks, and secret meetings.  We were amazed and flabbergasted.  At midnight we made them head out to the tent hoping they would be exhausted and fall asleep.

I slept on the couch in the family room with our window cracked.  Originally we were going to have Mike sleep in the tent with them, but realized that would be fairly "uncool".  However, I wasn't okay with just letting them be out there alone (I was afraid someone would need to come inside during the night and fall into the pool).  So, I was able to "keep an ear out for them" and still sleep relatively comfortable.  After three trips outside (noise control) I told them it was 1:30am and they needed to stop talking (so loudly!) and go to bed.

They were up by 7am, ate breakfast, back on the warpath by 7:30 and swimming again by 9am.  At 10am they were picked up and we all collapsed.

This was a pretty easy party to throw together and Jake said his friends told him they had a good time.  One successful party down, one more and we are done for the summer!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


As I previously mentioned, last week Maddie was at Volleyball camp.  It was three hours everyday and we specifically chose this camp because they offered a defensive playing course.  The one thing that we noticed, and her coaches tried to stress was that Maddie needed to learn to be more aggressive with the ball. This particular camp is also run by a group that does volleyball 24/7 and we had heard that the camps were very worthwhile.

After the first day, Maddie was sore.  After the second day, she was even more sore.  I think she just assumed she'd never feel normal after the third day and stopped complaining.

However, the evidence of how hard she was trying to improve was pretty obvious:

They practiced a lot of diving for the ball.  Obviously she was doing something wrong the first few days, but as she told my sister by the end of the week, she thought she had figured out what she was doing wrong and wasn't getting as many bruises.

The inside of her elbows (though hard to see here) were pretty banged up.  One of her knees had a bruise that was probably the size of half a dollar bill.

(That scar on the left is the remains of her cooking incident I posted about here.)

At the end of the week she also said she felt they had "fixed" her serve.  She wasn't expecting to improve her serve at a "defensive" camp so she was pretty happy about that.

This week she's at a different volleyball camp, but only two hours per day.  This will probably seem like a walk in the park.  In August she starts back with practice for fall volleyball through her school.  She's already decided she'll be putting in some regular practice time to make sure she's ready.  Guess we better get some more band-aids.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Official Teen!

Last week Maddie officially entered teen-dom!  As she has mentioned numerous times: only two more years until she drives! (She's counting 15 since she can get her permit then.)

Unfortunately her birthday fell on a Tuesday.  Mike and I couldn't take off work, and we had signed her up for volleyball camp that whole week.  (She was NOT happy with us; she had intended to do nothing on her special day.)  That night, Jake had a baseball game so we knew dinner out wasn't going to be in the cards either.

With all of that, we told her she could pick a different day to celebrate and we'd try to do whatever she wanted for the day.  She chose last Saturday as her "Birthday 2012" day.

At 9am we were all down in the basement eating donuts and watching Netflix for "America's Funniest Home Videos" in our pajamas.  After two shows she decided we'd head upstairs and open presents.  She didn't want to wait until her real birthday.

Maddie had given us her list - the day before this celebration.  Mike and I had other plans though and spent the afternoon perusing the mall for a special necklace.  We wanted something that could be her first "real" jewelry and that would commemorate a big milestone, but would be something she could still wear in 20 years.  No pressure.

I have to say, Mike takes his jewelry shopping pretty seriously.  He generally knows exactly what style he's looking for.  He was pretty excited to give Maddie this necklace.

Her other present was an apron for her baking.  She's in the kitchen a lot lately and loves to bake.  When we bake together she's without an apron because I still have seniority and get to wear mine.  Her apron is a lot more festive and colorful.  She used it last week and reported it worked great!

After breakfast we picked up a little lunch of sandwiches and headed to the lake to spend the day on my parents' pontoon.  Maddie had wanted to have a picnic on the boat and lots of tubing time.  I bet we were out there for over four hours!  The weather was perfect, the lake was 84 degrees and we had a ton of fun!

I don't have any pictures.  I just wanted to enjoy the day as a family and sometimes toting along a camera just isn't "fun".

For dinner, we had my parents and aunt (visiting from Indiana) over.  Maddie's choice of cuisine was her favorite: Fettuccine Shrimp Alfredo.  *slurp*

Dessert was her favorite: Dairy Queen Cake.  This year it was Mint Oreo.  I thought it looked horrible, but it must have tasted great.  We had two pieces left that Maddie and Jake were able to enjoy the next night.

On her real birthday after the trauma of three hours of volleyball we picked her up and took her to lunch at El Loro where she got to eat the chimichanga she loves!  She went horseback riding with my dad that afternoon which was actually her birthday present from last year.

Hopefully she had a good couple of days.  She's a pretty special girl and we are so proud of the young lady she has become.  This weekend she'll be having a "Summer Splash" party with some girlfriends.  Then we can officially clear "Celebrating Teen Status" off the books!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Independence Day!

Catching up here...

As a lovely surprise, Mike and I woke up to pancakes being prepared for everyone by Maddie and Jake on July 4th!  Over breakfast Maddie wondered how many people actually celebrated July 4th.  Only half listening (I was eating pancakes!) I responded, "Isn't that what fireworks are?"

She and Mike looked at me and replied, "No."  They were right, of course.

Mike showed me this clip from KARE11 that he had watched with the kids.  It's about a memorial that was being shown in Lakeville through the following weekend.  We decided we'd honor the day by going to see that.

The exhibit is called "Eyes of Freedom" and there are seven images that the artist, Anita Miller, worked on for a company from Ohio that lost, I think, 23 soldiers in the span of three days.  The artist was there and it was interesting to hear her story.  She just felt compelled to paint these and couldn't walk away from the project.  She mostly worked from head shots the families provided, but said she had a vision of how each soldier would be posing in her mind before she started.  When family members saw the final art, they commented on details she had added but didn't have any reason other than it was in her vision.  Some of the details of how they stood, or what they were holding held special meaning for the families that knew the soldier so well.

In front of each painting there were a pair of boots from each soldier represented in the painting.  If you look closely, you'll see the laces have red stains.

All four of us were happy we had gone and felt it was a good way to start off our day of celebrating.

On a lighter side, Maddie and I went home to make what is turning into our annual July 4th tradition: a fun dessert.

We had decided on cupcakes that looked like snow cones.  Appropriate since it was literally about 100 degrees outside.

We baked the cupcakes and put them in these little cups we found at Michael's.  (Note: If you attempt this, plan ahead and order these cups online somewhere where you can get them without wax coating inside.  By doing this, you can actually bake the cupcakes in the cup.  This would be SO much easier!)

I was in charge of frosting.  The extra globs were delicious.

Maddie was in charge of sprinkles.  At first we had a tiny bowl and sprinkles were EVERYWHERE; the dog was in hog-heaven until we banished her downstairs with Jake.  We finally wised up and found our largest bowl and things were far less messy.

We got the original idea from Bakerella and I have no idea how that woman made these alone.  This process took us 2 1/2 hours!  We had a great time, but it's a good thing we weren't in any rush or it would have been way too stressful!

When we were done with the sprinkles they looked like this.  

Those were cute, and we were SUPER excited.  Giddy, high-fiving each other, jumping up and down excited.  However, we knew the piece to finish it off would be the small spoons.  We had gone to three different stores to find them and couldn't.  We ended up at Sam's Club and Maddie had the brilliant idea to talk to the sample people.  The lady told us Sam's didn't sell the spoons, but when we answered what we needed them for, she grabbed a handful, put them in a plastic bag and gave them to us!  What a super nice woman!  We were dancing out of that store!

Unfortunately I didn't take pics of the inside.  The cupcakes were red, white, and blue striped for the cake part!  That was a mess all on it's own!  If you go to make these cupcakes, do not cut a large hole in the batter bags.  We did and it was uncontrollable for the next minute!  Some cupcakes ended up more "red, white, blue swirl" than stripes.

All still edible though...especially if you are in need of a sugar high!

And if you go to make these and need the spoons for details...Party City sells them.  Just found that out today!  Aaaugh!!

To end our celebration of how happy we were these turned out, we decided to take a self-portrait...

Clearly we will stick to baking...

Monday, July 2, 2012

New Specs

Last week we finally got Maddie to the glasses store and got her some new frames.  She really loved her old ones, but we found out just replacing the lenses of the old frames cost as much as getting two new frames.  Two new frames it was.

During construction of these frames, we had an hour to kill at the mall and managed to get her four new shirts - yahoo summer sales!

And, since this girl loves to get her picture taken, we took a few moments the other night to get some new shots of her.  I love that she has the confidence to want her picture taken!

As she was sitting on the steps she was joined by her BFF dog...

Maddie is convinced she's taught Sadie how to "kiss" (blech....)

Awhile back she taught Sadie how to shake...

And of course the positive reinforcement...

Maddie got two colors of frames - the other frames are exactly the same, but have a green color around the edges.  She likes them both, but prefers the blue.  I like the green.  Sadie will take her either way as long as she gets this kind of attention!