Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Gone Fishin'

We have made it through. .school, camps, roadtrips, harvest, holidays, fair, sicknesses, and multiple other time-filling factors and opportunities!!  Laundry is caught up, house is cleaned, gardens are all watered, fish are delivered to grannies. . .and we are ready for a little R and R.  We are hopin' to get gone in the next 24 hours for a short trip to the lake for some water sports and rest. . .and a little back to school shoppin'!! The kids are so excited that we can hardly stand them.  When asked where he was going on vacation yesterday, Devin replied "Somewhere that is going to change my life!" (We only hope that the time off is THAT good!!)  And Jeremy and I must be a little excited too, because we have changed our departure time three times now!  By the time we return, we will have been married for 16 LOOOOONG years--or short ones--depending on how you look at it!! Hope everyone else finds a little rest and relaxation this weekend too!!
Remember--a bad day fishin' is always better than a good day at work!!

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Deck Unveiling

Do you remember a few short weeks ago when my deck was looking like this??
A little disorganized and in some disrepair?
The repairs have all been made and we enjoyed being able to put Grant's table and bench out there last weekend.  I'd like to put a rock path out to the greenhouse--you can see it in the background-- from these steps (mostly because I would like a rock path to go there from anywhere--and this is the shortest route :-)
We kept the padded chairs to our old table set--mostly because they are so comfortable to lounge in.  We are loving the table, and christened it with lunch 'al fresca' on Saturday.  We love to dine "out," and surprisingly, the weather was not too warm with very little wind!
The chiminea got moved to the other section of the deck.  We love the look, but not too easy for more than 2 people to roast marshmallows in at a time.  It also doesn't put out much heat!!  I would love to get one of those tall heaters that puts out heat (infared?) to use in the winter.  They had them in San Diego on all the restaurant decks.  I believe that I have seen them in Lowes--but have never been scouting for one for my own personal use--If anyone has any info on them, leave a comment!
We also still love the chairs that we built last summer--they are not SO comfortable--but they work and they just look so darn cool (of course I'm biased!)
Apparently, grasshoppers like palm trees as much as hollyhock plants, but I think they have finally given this one a little reprieve!
We enjoyed 1/2 inch of rain yesterday, and spent an hour just sitting around the new table watching it drip! Dev went on all weekend about being ready to go back to school--and it is only 2 weeks away!! Is that possible.  I guess it must be! Hoping to do some school shopping next weekend!! Please say a prayer for the families of the Eagle Med Flight team that went down in Oklahoma last week--they have a tough week of funerals and memorials!  It sure brought back a flood of memories to our hospital family in our loss of a nurse several years ago in a similar plane crash!! Wishing everyone a great week!!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Too Hot!!

In between our multiple activities this last week, I haven't had much of a chance to write.  The week found us: Finishing up fair activities, a wedding, visiting with the cousins here from Houston, 5 out of 6 of us down with the stomach flu, spending extra time with Grandma as she made the decision to put Grandpa into the nursing home, drum lessons in Wichita and record time shopping, work, battling with a dishwasher that just needs a solid boot kick out an open door, canning up a few peppers and some okra pickles, LAUNDRY, as much garden work as could be done in the reasonably cool hours (which amounted to very little!!), and child duties.  I feel like I've been hit by a train.  So instead of being a mature adult, and cleaning my kitchen that appears as a tornado casulity--I sit at my computer--under the pretense of cleaning off the desk as my cousin pictures load--and unwind.  I reason that it is TOO hot to work--even indoors! It has been a chilly 100-106 here all week.  My garden is about to make me cry--even with waterings, it looks so pathetic and now grasshopper-ravished--that it just makes my stomach hurt!  We are SOOOOO hoping for some rain out of the 40% chance they have us under!! 
Joe and Lisa made it in from Houston last Thursday--and Dev bugged me until I finally took the two small ones over to Granny's that day for an hour to play!! We also met up for the annual pizza and fireworks night--which is when the photos were taken.  Cami had already been sick and well for 1 1/2 days by then, but no one else got sick until the day AFTER pizza--so we are sure hoping that none of them ever got it!
The kids enjoyed letting off Granny's fireworks and crackers--and no casualties--which is always good!! I
think that their favorites are always the parachuters! The wind was really blowing and they had to RUUUUUUUNNN to catch those little dudes.  Even Cami was running as fast as she could in her Hannah Montana sparkly flip flops to catch them!!  Serious stuff, those parachutes are!!
Emma and Keith are getting so big--and I'm sure our kids look big to them each year too!! We are hoping for our spring breaks to match up next year so we can take a vacation to visit them in Houston.  The kids have never been there--so we would like to take them, and spring is a little more temperate than summer.  Also, San Antonio is somewhere between 2-3 hours from them--and they have never been to Sea World either--so that will be on the agenda too!! 

This morning the little guys and I went over to Grandma's to pick some more rhubarb and dill from her garden, as well as to provide a little company.  We came home with boysenerries, concord grapes, green beans, new potatoes, and some cucumbers--in addition to the dill and rhubarb!!  Now that my desk is cleaned off, and I am feeling terribly guilty about loungin'--I am off to clean up and get the produce cleaned and put away.  We have J's class reunion tonight (a year early--I know--but they wanted to have it in conjunction with the class ahead of his too) so I need to prepare some food for that too.  Praying for some drops of God's water!!  And something big and mean to eat the grasshoppers and stinking squash bugs!!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

You Might Be a Redneck. . .

. . .If the main attraction at your son's 14th birthday party is a skeet shoot!
But that's just how we roll out here in RURAL southern Kansas!!
We were able to get a couple of his friends together for a sleepover last night.  Apparently, my husband shops like I do (or he has been taking notes from my shopping habits and has started mocking me!) The other day I went out to the shop for a minute and found Grant working on putting this little treasure together. 
It is a battery operated skeet launcher. HMMMM! When I raised my eyebrow, J just did his little red-faced smirky grin and said "It was on SALE!! 1/2 off!! I HAD to!" Last night was the christening of the device, and it is kinda cool!

First you load it up with the skeet.  These are biodegradable.

Next you step on the foot pedal, which releases the skeet. .that was D's job.

Ready, aim, FIRE!!

The boys had a great time shooting!
They even let mama try when they got the pistol out.  They had different targets for this.  But, the pistol is loud, even when you cover your ears. .so Cami and I went looking for other things to do. .
First we watched the bumble bees and butterflies on the blue mist spirea. .This one was a little different looking than the little fat yellow and black ones we have.
Then we spotted this coneflower had opened.  It is in my new garden next to the deck--It is called tomato soup.  And it is even prettier in real life!! I still have two light colored coneflowers to open!
Then we jumped until it was time to go in!

Today the boys have just been BUSY!! They have spent the entire day outside, despite the triple digit temps.  Cami woke up with the stomach flu, but seems to be better now.  We have watched Toy Story. .TWICE, Toy Story 2, every episode of Dora we have on our DVR (which is about 6 episodes), and showered 3 times.  I even got in a couple of shows on Food network before she cared enough to complain!  She is ususually a better "sick" kid than this--I don't think she knows her stomach is coming up until it does!  Fortunately, the stomach flu also hit one of Tristan's overnight friends' house--so we just kept him here all day-figuring he would be exposed in one house or the other!  I finally got away from Cami long enough to get through some laundry, bake some zucchini bread, and blog a bit! 
Weather channel says more HOOOOOT weather this week.  Remember to drink lots and wear your sunscreen! Stay cool everyone!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Tristan's 4-H projects

And finally, there's Tristan!!  This is he and Grant's 5th year in 4-H.  They are starting to really get the hang of it, and the complaining about doing the not so fun stuff seems to be lessening!
This was his first year in shotguns, as part of the shooting sports program.  His first year, he took archery, but we really didn't pursue it much as we tried to learn the ropes!  We don't have a very strong shooting sports program here, so most of his learning was independent.  He took a hunter safety course last summer and learned alot.  The guys love to shoot skeet and prairie dogs.  They also hunt for deer and dove.  He also had to make a poster if he wanted to do something related to shooting sports for the fair.  The ideas were all his, and I thought that he did a nice job putting it together. The judge gave him a blue ribbon.

Tristan wanted to continue with the geology project this year.  We started with that 4 years ago because we liked to go to an old sand pit that's close to our house.  We enjoyed sifting through it looking for different rocks just for fun.  We have come to realize that geology is HARD!!!  There are tons of funky named things, and we knew NOTHING!!  The field trips are fun, though--and the longer we hang around this overwhelmingly different world, the more we learn.  We also talk to lots of people who got addicted to rock hunting when their 4-Hers were little.  They learned by seeing and doing--which is how we are learning.  We don't have a leader, or anyone who really knows anything about rocks--so we learn what we can one weekend a year, and build on it the next year.  This year (and from now on) he is limited to 2 boxes of 60 total specimens.  They have to have 15 new specimen each year (in the box).  So this year, he had to weed out some specimens to make the new ones fit.  That was a challenging process. .and now we have a good start to the "garage collection" AKA the shoe box that later turns into buckets of old specimens, that you don't want to throw away, because you may just need them someday!! Most people keep these collections in their garages or basements!! I swore it would not be me. . IT IS!! The rest of the of the unused specimens go into the rock bed in between the decks. . I figure that it will keep my future grandkids occupied for DAYS, looking for all those cool fossils!
Tristan took home Grand Champion this year!! The judge offered lots of nit-picky advice about little things that need changed. .so I think that we will be doing something different with the labels--they want you to be able to get really long words and lots of info on an address label. . but they want it big enough to read well, and small enough to fit exactly on the bottom of a card not large enough to handle the whole label?  Hoping to get it re-done by September for the State Fair.
Here he is working on Grandma Vickie's lemon bar recipe.  He thought that they ROCKED!!  So I have a feeling that I may get to enjoy these more often! They aren't something that I make routinely, but I love 'em!! The judge loved 'em too, and gave him a purple ribbon!  Tristan shares my love of anything lemon!! Our favorite pie is lemon meringue, hands down!!  He also made a buttermilk cocoa cake and blueberry tea bread. The cocoa cake also got a purple, and so he must decide between the two on which to take--he has been back and forth numerous times already!  He was better about reading through all the instructions before he poured stuff together, after what happened when he made the marble brownies a few months ago (when he poured everything in together. .including the marbling!!)  He did get to make the lemon squares twice.  Seems he thought that 1/8 tsp salt meant you take 1/4 plus 1/4 to make that! OOPS!! The second time was much better!
His last project included a second year in photography.  He wasn't as creative minded as Grant was when searching for photo op's.  But he was more careful about holding still.  I had the opportunity to help him a little more when we went to Big Brutus for the state geology trip.  My favorite picture was the black and white picture of the train car wheels. That one and the one of the variagated plant got purple ribbons. We had a hard time deciding between some of the pictures that he had taken. .and the variegated plant wasn't even in the prelims. .I put their pictures on my computer the night before we went to make prints to see "up close and personal" what they looked like to make sure we didn't miss a good one, or choose a slightly fuzzy one.  I loved this contrast--and so did he when he really looked at it! The yellow orchid got a red ribbon and the sillouette got a blue.
Tristan was very pleased with his efforts and his placings.  He's a lot more laid back in that regard--so it is nice to see some excitement!
There you have it!! 2010 county fair is history. . .We had a great time, learned a lot, and practiced a lot of virtures. . like patience and humility!!  Let the summer start!!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dev's 4-H Projects

This was D's first year in 4-H, but not his first year to enter in the fair. Last year he took the chair that he built (with help) and got the reserve champion in open class!  This year he was excited to get to do his very own projects.  He chose woodworking, archery, cooking, and geology.
Our friend Danny works in a woodworking shop, and had a few extra scraps of wood.  We had intended to use one piece to make a clock--but as we searched for clock parts, we also found a cool weather station kit.  He was putting penofin on the weather station, so that we can hang it out on the deck if we want.  It has a thermometer, a barometer, and a humidity gauge (whatever "meter" that is called!!) He got a blue ribbon for that work.
The replacement clock hands arrived just in time!! His dad cut the octagon shape for him, at D's command. But D helped hold the router, and did the sanding and staining himself.  I convinced him to stain the oak the same color as my kitchen cabinets, since we had extra stain. . but I'm not sure that I can convince him that his clock would look perfect hanging above the doorway to the laundry room in my kitchen.  He is sure that it will look better in his room upstairs!! The judge didn't even notice that the clock movement was in upside down (since they actually put the numbers on upside down, according to the hanger on the back)!! He got a blue on it--but Grant thought it may have even gotten a purple (I was helping with the cooking at that point, so I missed their wood projects being judged--and took D's word that it was a blue!)
He was pretty proud of his work though!!
The geology project wasn't his first rodeo in that department either!! He has attended with our family the state trip for the last few years!  He enjoyed picking up his own rocks, and especially enjoyed using the chisel to chop up his specimens!  He worked very well at glueing his specimens to the card and getting them arranged in his box.  And also helped to pin them all in!  His box took Reserve Champion out of 6 displays!! I was proud of him for that!!

All of the boys enjoy shooting sports, and D had gotten his own compound bow for Christmas a couple years ago, so archery as a project was a no-brainer.  He enjoyed shooting his bow at the bow shoots that we attended, and enjoys shooting the bow targets we have at home.  To enter in the fair in this project, he had to make a poster.  We decided to use the info that Tristan used in his first 4-H talk on archery--Nine steps to the 10 ring (the middle bullseye, for those of you that didn't know what a ten ring is!)  He bugged me for 2 days to work on that poster before we could get the time to start.  He was disgusted with his terrible handwriting ("my handwriting just SUCKS" were his exact words!).  That was my favorite part of the whole poster!!  We did the printing on cardstock, so if he made a mistake (or should I say WHEN he made a mistake) we could just start a different piece.  As he wrote out the second bullet, he started making rings inside the O before I could stop him.  Trying to keep quiet, I quickly saw that he was making his own version of a target.  I let him leave it there, and then we decided to add bullseyes to one letter in each bullet.  It looks very "2nd grade!"  We went out Saturday morning and took pictures of him demonstrating his bullets!  I think the poster is too cute, but then I AM biased!!  The judges comments included "Try to be neater when you grow up a little"  WHAT??? He's 7!!  He did give him a blue ribbon though, and D was thrilled!

D has always enjoyed helping in the kitchen, and since his mom is the cooking leader, he HAD to be in cooking!! (all the boys are like that now---cooking is never a project up for consideration!! They want to do it!)  Grant tried out the brownie recipe earmarked as an easy one for Devin several weeks ago (since it was the only flagged recipe that we had all the ingredients for).  D took one bite of that brownie and got this priceless expression on his face.  Excitedly, he proclaimed "These brownies are AWESOME!! They are SOOOO going to give ME 1st slot for them!!"  I nearly choked on my brownie.  They are awfully yummy! And easy.  He got a purple ribbon!!  He also decided to make chocolate chip cupcakes using a cake mix, mini chips, pudding mix, and packaged icing, and at the last minute (only because I was going to make it this weekend anyway) a snack mix using Golden Grahams, Cinnamon toast cruch, m and m's, peanuts, and dried cranberries.  He got blue ribbons on both of those!
D was really excited about his ribbons, and kept coming over to update me on how many blue ribbons he had!!  I imagine that he will think he is super cool when he gets that fair check in a few weeks!
Two down, one to go!!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Grant's 4-H projects

We survived the 4-H fair judging today.  I decided it would be easier for me to highlight each of the boys work and results separately this year--so this is the first of three. .of course, in no particular order!!
This year's woodworking seemed to be easier.  J and G came up with the plans for the cedar picnic table themselves.  Grant enjoys that project and worked very independently on it. 
He chose to finish it in penofin to protect it. It really brought out the grain of the cedar wood.
Because, we plan to re-use the patio chairs that we have now, he just made one bench to go with the table.  It has been covered up in the shop, and I can't wait to get it on the deck next weekend!!  The judge thought he did ok too, cause he gave him a blue ribbon. I hope to post a picture of the table and bench in the next few weeks after they get situated to their new homes!
Rocketry was a new project for him this year, even though the boys have dabbled with hobby lobby rockets for the last couple years.  The requirements were that he had to build one from scratch or from a kit--but nothing in the kit could be prebuilt.  They have been flying rockets through the winter, and he didn't start this one until last week--as I realized the rocket he had been using had pre-formed fins and wasn't acceptable for the fair.  This one had a really hard paint pattern on it--again, not realized until too late!! Overall, he did a good job on it, though the paint job was less than perfect.  We flew it after Tristan's birthday party.  Luckily for us, it went straight up and came straight down--with no injury to the rocket.  Granny and Papa got to watch the launch too.  They are fun to watch!!  Blue ribbon placing too.

Cooking went well this year.  Last year, I was SOO stressed out while they cooked, that I thought I surely would die this year to have THREE kids to help.  But the older two are getting better and take much less work.  And Devin is a completely willing subject, and seems to be more fun to teach since I am not pulling his teeth out to be there!  We switched Grant's plans Monday, after Great Grandma Pat brought over some rhubarb.  She has a really good cake recipe for using it, and he opted to do that.  The cake was beautiful--and hopefully it tasted great too!! The bad thing about baking a cake is that there is no preview before the judge gets to try it!!  But he raced over to the food sale right after she gave him a purple ribbon, and paid $5 to bring it home again.  But it WAS pretty good!  He also made gingersnaps. They were supposed to be dipped in white chocolate, but he didn't want to "mess them up," and his dad agreed, so he didn't dip them.  They were good, and froze well.  We made them last week, and the afterthought was to freeze enough that we COULD use them for the fair, if they thawed nicely. .which they did! YEAH!  Another purple ribbon, and he thinks that he will take these on to the state fair, since they can only take one exhibit per kid.  His final recipe was for lemon muffins that had coconut in the batter and a lemon coconut glaze to put on the top--I loved them!  However, last night at 9:30, as Tristan was helping to clean the kitchen, he opened the microwave and said "Hey, whose butter is this?!"  AHA!! That missing butter was the reason that those lemon muffins weren't quite the same as they were last week.  They were heavier, but the glaze dripped down into the poked holes on the top and moistened them right back up.  Blue ribbon (we didn't tell the judge that he had forgotten the butter!!) 
This was his second year in photography.  He still needs to be directed to go out and shoot some pictures, but he usually goes out easily and looks at things from different angles.  We were just going to blow up 3, but couldn't decide--so we used 4 instead.  The picture of the wagon got a purple and will go on to the state fair. The other three got blues, and I'm not sure that the rose picture didn't get a state fair blue also--but my details are a little fuzzy. . You can imagine after 20 some entries to the fair by the 3 kids!!

This was the first year that I was co-chairmen of the 4-H food exhibits (the first of MANY I am sure!!) This gave me the opportunity to sit next to the judge and keep track of the exhibits and paperwork.  I learned a lot and found it to be quite interesting.  I was glad that other families have mishaps too!! Some had exhibits that were so horrible they had to leave them at home, some forgot their exhibits in the oven and totally over cooked them, and  many had never made their recipes before (something that we have done too!!) the fair.  We enjoyed a trip to the pool later this afternoon--which has become our after-fair tradition!

Grant has the personality that, if he can't do it perfectly and be the best at it, he doesn't want to do it at all.  He also struggles with humility!  Being of the competitive cloth, the fair is always the hardest for him to deal with--because his stuff isn't usually the best, it's just good!! (go figure--he doesn't like blue ribbons, because he WANTS purple ones!) Slowly, slowly--we are molding him and trying to shape that personality with these little lessons!! Somedays I don't know if it works or not. .but he is getting better about apologizing when he is advised to because his careless comments hurt feelings!! I'm a strong believer in the 4-H program--because of the strong life lessons that it provides to help them grow to be GREAT people!!

Devin's projects will be posted tomorrow sometime! Have a great week!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Remember When. . .

It was 14 years ago today. . .
At precisely 6:55 a.m. . .
That this little thing--weighing in at 8 pounds 3 oz and 22 1/2 inches long
made his debut into our lives.  You can see that he has not hurt in the way of nourishment and has grown exceedingly well!  He measured himself to all the grandparents and greats. . finding himself taller than all of them!
We celebrated his birthday with the local family Sunday night.  Great Grandma Pat spoils them all rotten!! It doesn't matter whose birthday it is, she brings small presents for the whole crew!! They love it very much!!
Here's the expression of a 2 1/2 year old who was able to blow bubbles all by herself and actually make it work right!! The best part?? The bottle has an extra lid with a seal contraption that makes it nearly spill proof when the 2 1/2 year old insists on holding the bottle "ALL BY HERSELF!!"
In true 14 year old male fashion. .his favorite gift was the Axe (AKA: chick magnet) soap and deodorant.  I realize some of you may think he is nuts to be excited about stuff like this--but it is expensive, so the only time they get to use the REAL COOL  concoctions, is when they receive it as a gift!!
All the great grandparents were on hand to eat burgers with the fixin's and Grandma Pat's watermelon shaped cake and homemade ice cream.  We are so fortunate to still have all of J's grandparents around to celebrate with!
It was, however, quite apparent this week that Grandpa Ed's dementia is in a major decline again.  He really didn't know any of us, and his conversation was truly limited.  He gets pretty antsy to be at home and gets anxious when Grandma is out of his sight.  At one point, during his search for Grandma, I took him over to the recliner and put Cami on his lap.  She thought she was so big to be able to "read" a story to Grandpa.  He seemed to enjoy it too.  He still LOVES animals and little girls!

Tristan plans to have his guy friends over this coming weekend for some skeet shooting and an overnighter.  He ordered stromboli sandwiches and a huge cookie (WHAT???--those aren't readily available at our little grocery store!!)  Hopefully his dad won't make him work too hard today!! I still find it hard to believe how fast the last 14 years have gone, and that with his next birthday he will be anxiously awating the start of High School!!  The highlight of his evening Sunday, was driving Papa and Granny back to their house so we could blow off some of Granny's fireworks (as has become our tradition).  We also found out Sunday night, that my brother-in-law and his family from Houston will be coming in this week--so we look forward to blowing off the REST of the fireworks this weekend while they are here!!
Happy Birthday big guy!! Hope you have a great day!!

P.S.  check back often this week. . I will have highlights of the boys' 4-H projects and their fair results.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Exxxxxxx-Terminators

Who:  These two ruthless, sinister dudes (and dudettes)
The mission:  To save this pumpkin patch
The enemy: These vicious, no good for nothing creatures. . .
Alias: the SQUASH bug
Let's get ready to RUUUUUUUMMMMBBBLLE!!!
Flip the leaves, identify the enemy.  Catch him with the bug tongs.  Oh brother, BUG TONGS???!!  Or squish him, plain and simple, IF you have gloves on.  Take the bugs, their children, and their EGGS--leaving NOOOOO survivors!
After you catch 'em with the bug tongs. . place 'em into the prisoner of war cell to think about what they have done and what is yet to come. 
The reward:  These little punkins' will live to see another day and hopefully more will follow in their footsteps!!
Yeah, whatever. . .the reward?? 10 cents a bug. . .DEAD OR ALIVE.  (seriously--I knew that their stamina was questionable--but they still ripped me out of $4!)
"Oh thank you, thank you , You noble bug-catching people!! Whatever can we do to repay you?"
"It was our pleasure. . we'll see YOU again next Halloween!"