Sunday, June 30, 2019

Anniversary weekend, Birthday prep

We spent a night in Cleveland to celebrate our Anniversary.  We stayed right at Univeristy Circle and were able to walk everywhere.

It's nice to get out of town and have a chance to pack only dresses. 

The hotel was very fancy-pants. So much so that I had to take a picture in the bathroom as the "soap" was labeled "cleansing bar" and there was something called a shoe mitt provided. Not sure why I found that so funny. I had no idea what it was so I opened it. Apparently it's just a square of cloth and I live a sheltered life.

We had dinner at a fantastic French resturaunt.  Took a long walk afterwards.  Went to the Art museum the next morning where we took the opportunity to look at all of the things we usually don't get to see, mainly the very old tapestries and textiles.  It was so much fun to spend some time alone together.

Earlier in the day we took the kiddos to the Cleveland aquarium.

Where they loved every bit of it.

The oldest had so many questions about everything. Like he'd go up to some gentleman moping the floor and say "Um, excuse me? Why is the butterfly fish called a butterfly fish?" It was really funny. That stuffed octopus hasn't left his side and he has been sleeping with it. 

Our armchair biologist.

They spent the night with my sister and her family while we were out. Everyone had a great time.

Now I am off to wrap gifts for a certain little one who turns one year old tomorrow. Wow, does the time go by quickly.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Auction and Pool Party

Is it considered animal cruelty to make the chicken you just bought stand in line with you while you buy hot off the grill barbecued chicken?

This Saturday was the big Amish benefit auction in Atlantic.  You can read about our previous Atlantic auction adventures here and here.

It was so much fun.  I went with my dad, we got there at 8 a.m. and the Amish outnumbered the English about 100 to 1, no joke.  There are so many people there from different communities.  It's just visually stunning.  The whole community of Atlantic was wiped clean of houses by a big tornado back in the 80's and now it's just beautiful  rolling fields with farms and draft horses and kids running barefoot.  We would have loved to have bought a house there honestly but prices are high for land and the Amish pay with cash.

This was the kind of day we had for the auction, I mean it was perfect.  Hot but perfect.  My father and I do try to be respectful with our dress when going to this event; jeans, long sleeves.  I *know* that Amish in our area are worldly and buy their chicken nuggets and eggs and diet Pepsi at Wal-Mart along with everyone else, but still... it does feel better to dress the part and not take photos. But the things I wished to take pictures of... men hitching and test driving draft teams, a dozen Amish girls cooking pancakes on Coleman camp stoves, men and women in all shades of blue, children barely old enough to walk toddling around in suspenders and  a row of barefoot little boys leaning against a barn drinking Coke a Colas... I mean, the whole thing is beautiful.

This was the one lot I was interested in, a whole sugar operation of sap buckets and lids.  But I was sure they would go for much more than I was willing to pay, only needing a dozen or so. Anyway, they were being sold at the same time as the livestock.

Which consisted of  a pair of bottle fed lambs (sad), lots of rabbits, chickens and a young goat buck being held in the arms of the seller.   I was interested in a cardboard box containing a beautiful hen with her babies... when the bidding got started, half an hour late,  I did get caught up in auction fever aka I've been standing here all damn day and am going to go home with SOMETHING . So I just kept my holding my number up out of stubbornness and spite . An embarrassingly large amount of dollars later we won the group of chickens.  My dad insisted on splitting the cost for the promise of free eggs  (which he gets anyway) but we did pay about twice as much as was reasonable.  I also intended  to bid on a tiny, gorgeous, grey/purple bantam rooster but when he came up for sale one of the auctioneer's assistants held up the box he was in and the rooster burst out of it like he was shot out of a cannon and ran off into the crowd. It was chaos. Picture a dozen English kids chasing a rooster around the barn yard. The Amish knew better; they were never going to catch it. It was perfect. "Well, that's that". I said and we all laughed. It was time to go home.

I collected my chickens, stood in line for barbecued chicken and we got in the van.

Here she is settled in with her babies. She is so pretty. She's somewhere in size between a bantam and a standard chicken, I'm guessing just a regular barnyard mix.

I'm going to overlook the fact that 4 of her 5 chicks look like young roosters.

And the pool party was for my little niece who turned 5. It was fantastically mermaid-themed and so much fun.  The community pool where they live is perfect for kids. There is a huge section where the water goes from a half inch deep to up to my knees in the "deep" end.  The oldest was so looking forward to the party that he wore his swimming goggles to bed last night and had the best day of his life splashing around.  The baby was so excited walking in the water that he would just stop to watch the other kids, squeal and stomp his little feet in place with joy.  Us grown ups were just grateful for the heat and the sun after such a long time of rain every day.

Mermaid rings on the cupcakes.  My knees, a baby on the lap, the oldest to the right and his cousin to the left.  Joy.

I did brave the humiliation of a bathing suit in order to take the oldest into the adult section to bob him around while he flailed his arms and pretended to be a beaver, then a sea horse. He adores the PBS nature show Wild Kratts so we were saying things like "Activate Seahorse Power!" which is what Chris and Martin say when they power up their creature suits.  It was the best and there was a lot of crying when it was time to go.  Afterwards we went back to my sister's where the oldest made crafts with the birthday girl and the youngest was snuggled by my nephew, who loves babies.

 It was a fantastic day.  It's 10 p.m. and both of them just fell asleep.

It's going to be hard to top this weekend. Truly, it was a great one.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Bath fizzies

They look so sweet in this little cut glass bowl that belonged to my grandma.

So the kids love bath time and they love bath fizzies, or bath bombs as they're also called.  I used to love them too but don't take baths anymore since the faucet part that fills the tub rusted through, spouted like a geyser and had to be capped off (it was super expensive, purchased special order and less than 5 years old, no joke.  No one was pleased when this happened).  So now the old cast iron tub has to be filled by drawing the shower curtains and turning on the shower full blast.  I don't have time for this, but the kids do and so they're inherited my little collection of gifted bath fizzies.

They love them.  But the problem is that even cheap ones are $2 a pop and they're almost always made in China out of God knows what.  

So last night, high off the success of the chocolate sauce, I decided to make my own.  A trip to the little thrift store produced a plastic thing-y for 50 cents that I think was intended to hold eggs in a refrigerator.   But, hey, it was 50 cents and these are being enjoyed by the littles not being sold at some fancy boutique.  I followed these directions from Popular Science.

Whisk together:
8 oz baking soda
4 oz corn starch 
4 oz citric acid

it also calls for 4 oz Epsom salts.  I didn't have any.  They're not crucial to getting the "fizz" only the citric acid and baking soda is.  So I ground some oats in the food processor until it was a find powder and added 1/4 cup of it to the mix.  Powdered oats makes such a soothing bath for dry skin and the kiddos usually get this in the winter months.

So I chucked that all into the kitchen aid mixer and mixed it with the whisk attachment.  While that was going I put:

2.5 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp water
about 3 Tbsp almond & vanilla extract
a bit of food coloring paste

Into a canning jar and shook it up.  The instructions tell you to do this and it's a brilliant tip.  When it was shaken I added it to the running mixer in a very thin stream.  I didn't have any problems with the mixture foaming up at all.

Then I packed it into my thrift store mold as tightly as I could.  There was extra so I packed two muffin tin cavities as well.

You can see that as they dried overnight there was a bit of a reaction that caused them to rise a bit, not unlike muffins.  I don't think there was anything I could have done to avoid this. 

They were dry the next day and I turned them out easily. The recipe made 12 of the golf-ball sized fizzies and 2 muffin sized ones. 

Tonight we used them in the bath.

They fizzed spectacularly. 

 The cons: these aren't as concentrated as store bought ones so it took about 4 to have the same effect on the water color/scent wise as one store bought. Plus the kids just wanted to fizz as many as possible. 

 Pros: I think I can tweak the recipe to make it more effective, it only cost about $3 for the whole batch, the kids' skin felt amazing afterwards.  If I make them smaller then the kids can use a ton of them to feel satisfied and it will equal out to a couple of the larger size. Plus, I do not have to go to the store.

Going to call this one a win. A fun win.

p.s. I did not intend to store them in that pretty bowl because of moisture and the inevitability of kids chucking them into the toilet. They'll be kept in a lidded jar in the cupboard.

Friday, June 21, 2019

How blessed

Tonight I was standing outside looking at the stars thinking about how insanely blessed and grateful I am to have a warm, safe, dry home.  Food in the kitchen. My husband and children. A family that loves me.  How precious it is.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Chocolate sauce

I want to make a note of this because 3 out of 4 of us really like it.  The other person?  I stirred some of the chocolate sauce into a glass of milk and a certain small someone complained "This tastes like nothing! It's worse than nothing!"  Too bad for you, little guy.  The rest of us like it.  I think his problem is that it tastes like dark chocolate which is not necessarily a bad thing.  It's this one from Allrecipies.

Warm until butter is melted:
1 1/4 C milk
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 Tsp vanilla

Whisk in:

3/4 C sugar
1.5 Tbsp flour
1/2 C cocoa powder
tiny pinch salt

Simmer and stir for 5 minutes, or until you get bored.
Pour into jar.  Lick spoon.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Who's eating our sassafrass tree?

I've been seeing this on the leaves of the sassafras tree by the driveway but due to a busy weekend (yardsale! rain! husband away for the weekend!) haven't had a moment to really check it out until today.

Something had obviously been nibbling.  Excited to find out what, I started looking on the underside of the chewed leaves.

And found this.  A dead stick? No, but it mimics one.  Best I can tell it's a purplish-brown looper.

Another looper caterpiller, along with this little fuzzy one we haven't been able to identify.

After inspecting them for awhile, we set up a tiny terrarium.

I think this is just a holding pen.  I'm thinking of setting up a 5 gallon tank with plantings so we can raise a couple of different varieties of  butterflies and moths at once in the house while supplying different food sources for each.

Also today I moved the young birds that were left out of the garden coop and into the main chicken yard, managed to lose a pheasant, moved a hen with chicks back to the main coop and cleaned the garden pen in preparation for installing the 2 remaining ducks out there tomorrow.  However, I've also pulled my lower back quite badly so we'll see how I feel in the morning.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Doors around town

I have a bit of a soft spot for old doors and like to creep around taking pictures of them. God only knows what strangers who see me doing this think. 

 We do have some beautiful doors in town.  Anyone local want to guess where these are from? All in Greenville proper.

This is my favorite one.

That archway was probably a window once.

I love the old blue doors.

And old buildings.  Lucky this town is full of them.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Days in pictures

An odd free moment spent dorking around with one of my vintage typewriters.

Space party at the local library.

Historic rains one day last week. We had downpour for hours and there is a river running down the driveway.

Visiting with a chinchilla at Agway.   We were told that this little thing is so used to customers and treats that he rushes to greet people.

We were at Agway buying a beta fish and supplies for this:

The tackiest fish tank ever.  Yes, there is a snail named Gary.

Found a small garter snake in the garden.  We put it back after watching it and holding it.  My husband says we have a very big milk snake living by the garage but I haven't seen it yet.

Bee brought home a young flying squirrel one day.  We had no idea they were even on the property. 

Peas and rhubarb.  The garden is looking fantastic this year. 

So are all of the plantings on the porch.

I found a really nice sundress at the resale shop downtown.  It lets me pretend that I'm Kate Winslet in a movies set in the 1950's, perhaps Wonder Wheel with a little less crazy.  OK, on second thought maybe not Wonder Wheel. 

There was a birthday with rum cake.

And the little one has started to take a little shaky step to get from one place to another.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Weekend, crayons & fishing derby

I was that weirdo in my car taking pictures of strangers cattle today. It was just a really pretty scene.  

It's been a fun weekend.  Yesterday we had two parties to attend in the neighborhood; the neighbor's 6th birthday party (pirate themed, lots of fun) and a neighborhood block party. It was a really nice day and we had fun getting to know some new people.  I showed everyone the photo of the coyote that had come through.  The oldest has made quick friends with the neighbor kid, they're both super sweet little guys and get along great.... put them together and the plotting and planning of mischief quickly takes over.  It's adorable.

The kids and I made oven crayons today by taking the papers off of all of the broken ones crayons, chopping them smaller, filling a mini muffin tin and baking them. Sure, a pack of new crayons is less than a dollar but this entertained everyone for a full hour, myself included. There is something really satisfying about snapping crayons into tiny pieces.  My mother used to do this all the time with us when we were little.  I always thought it was thrift but now I suspect it was just that it got both of us kids to shut up for a good chunk of time.

We sorted then into solid color groups and made some rainbow ones with the leftover pieces. We added some glitter to those. 

Sprayed the pan first, 275 for 10 minutes.


Later in the day the oldest and I went to a kids fishing derby for Relay for Life. There were probably 100 kids or more fishing. We didn't catch a single thing. After casting his line about three times he was pretty much done with it and on to obsessing over the cupcake stand. So we got a cupcake and a drink and just enjoyed ourselves. We had brought a net with us and found some water strider insects and this, the biggest aquatic snail I've ever seen:

If we would have been anywhere else this thing would have come home with us for fish-tank observation but as it was we put it back. 

It was so, so nice to spend some time with my oldest just the two of us.  Sometimes I really miss those days when we had undivided time together.  Although today I did jokingly question if he was my child.   The order of things he was interested in went as follows:

Cupcake stand
Port-a-potty (he's never been in one)
Gummy fish
Introducing himself to strangers
Lying on a blanket
Talking about dragonflies
Talking about bugs
and..... finally... fishing.  Waaaaay down the list.

Then we came home and used our new crayons.

There were two things that happened over the weekend that caught me off guard.  One, at the neighborhood party the gentleman hosting used to work at the same place as my mom but retired opened with "How are your parents?" (Well, my dad's great and my mom died four years ago... so....)
Second, at the derby today the woman signing us in greeted me with "Oh, I had dinner with your parents yesterday!"  (Was a psychic involved?) She meant my in-laws but it still threw me off and the whole conversation was awkward.   I'm not trying to be sensitive, it was just bizarre.  We live in a small town and these conversations never happen - two in one weekend?  I mean, what are the odds?

  • My husband put up two swings in the maple tree out by the shed for the kids.  They are both overjoyed by those swings.  We had spent all spring looking at pre-fab swing-sets but 1) we don't have time to build one 2) they seem boring 3) I got on Pinterest.  There are so many fun things to make that the kids will love. And I do love me some crafting.  We're planning a little playground area out there filled with a slide, music wall, swings and a climbing dome.  I bought some cement pavers from Wal-Mart and am making a painted hopscotch pathway.

The "what on earth do these peanuts plants remind me of?" mystery has been solved.  It was bothering me so I just started googling pictures of wild legumes and found this:

Crown Vetch.  We have the pink and yellow ones here.  They're legumes, related to peas and yep, most of the plant is edible.  

Other fun things have been going on so the next post will be lots of pictures.