Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Garden and it's Creatures

It's so hard to believe that the summer has come and gone. We are enjoying cooler temperatures. .and though my gardening time is now severely restricted. .I do manage to find a few moments here and there to enjoy it!
We have had so much fun watching the dragon flies and butterflies this summer. .I never imagined that there were so many different kinds of dragonflies. .I have been taking their photos for weeks. .there are the little blue ones. .by far the most abundant kind. It isn't unusual to see 10 more more on one clump of the curly rush. .which by the way has been divided into two clumps and is doing remarkably well!
This big fat guy with the funky wings only came by a few times.
This one is a little hard to see, he is perched on the lily pad right under the yellow blossom.  It was a large dragonfly.
This guy was the most unusual dragonfly I saw all summer.  I love his reddish color. .he didn't stick around here for long either.
It won't be long before we stop feeding these rascals. We started with 19 smallish goldfish last fall that we saned from our friends' tank. I bought a yellow koi and a black google eyed goldfish in May. .now we have an uncountable number of fish and babies. .You can see how large the koi is, it started about the size of the cute little goldfish with black fins above.
Hoping to figure out how to hook the UV light inline to our pump this winter, to avoid the green water next spring. The lily didn't grow as large as I expected it to, so I will probably add another plant next spring. This one is a reddish pink. .I'm thinking a purple or yellow one.
The cats also enjoy the fish. .they stand on point at the edge, but I don't think they have ever managed to taste one!!
I have all but given up on the garden. There are finally some tomatos on the vine. . so maybe they will ripen before a frost next month. I also have lots of peppers still, and okra. My husband has been sauteing the okra, and it is pretty tasty, if you can get around the slimy texture. .even the kids eat them.  We are picking a few watermelon yet too.  The tomatoes are getting large in the bay window. .and need to be transplanted in the greenhouse soon.  I sowed flats of chives, parsely, oregano, broccoli, and cabbage last week. None of them are up yet. .I'm starting to worry. I have seen the Bright Lights Swiss Chard sprouts. .but yesterday when I went to water, I noted the tops were eaten off. .must have a mouse in there. I have left the doors open all summer to vent it. .first because they were broken. .but then because the self-opening windows weren't working. .so I'm sure there is a little nest somewhere!
I continue to enjoy this view out of the bay window.  The liatris I transplanted last year from our pasture has survived and is now blooming. The photos don't EVEN do it justice. .
. .and the spinyx moths are fun to watch up close and personal through the window. 
This hardy ice plant is flourishing in it's little crevice in the rocks by the waterfall.
Have you ever seen such a vivid color??
I got an aster cutting in the mail from my friend Gardener on Sherlock Street. .I wasn't sure what it was growing all this summer. .I knew what the possibilities were. .but it has been blooming it's first flowers for the last few days now.  I love purple blooms in the fall. .and so do the winged creatures.
I have been dying to see a swallowtail around here. .and finally this summer, I spotted some. This photo of the black swallowtail was taken a few weeks ago. .
. .and this one I saw a couple nights ago on the caryopteris.
The monarchs will soon be leaving for warmer weather in Mexico. .but for now, we are loving to watch them float around like little tufts of tissue paper in the breeze!
The red cypress vine has all but covered this metal headboard. .and the sunflower plants as well. I had hoped to attract hummingbirds with them. .but no such luck! I noticed that the dark eyed juncos are back as of last week. That means winter is around the corner.
I am really loving the purple fountain grass clumps. .and will need to be digging them up soon to overwinter in the greenhouse. I think I will put them by the pond again next summer, as they have given me immense pleasure this summer with their plumes and striking foliage!
The native plants from HCG are filling in well around the pond. .and the western ironweed is blooming now (the small purple ones in the front). The gray headed coneflowers are still blooming. .
As are the Mexican hats. .STILL. .They are hands down the flower winner around these gardens this summer!! Totally the most bang for my bucks!

An update on Tristan's foot. .the CT scan showed the damage in his foot to be worse than the doctor thought from the xray. His growth plate is still slightly open. .so no surgery for now. .but reconstructive surgery is what will likely happen after the plates close. .a process that he thinks will occur soon. So the walking boot is indefinite for now. .as is his basketball season. This week has been much better for all of us around here. .but we are still ready for the weekend!! One more day!!
Blessings to you. .Melanie

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Next 20 Years

This past weekend found us running like chickens. .from CT scan of Tristan's foot, to homecoming parade, to homecoming game, to my hometown parade, to family dinner, to my TWENTY year class reunion and back again.
First of all, I must say it seems surreal that these people. .the only ones I knew for the first 18 years of my life. .have been distant for over 20 years now!! We graduated with a few over 50, and about 20 of them showed up to the parade or the dinner. .and probably 10 more had good excuses for not being there.
Is as the custom. .we gathered early to catch a float for the parade! They have a parade for nearly every 5 year reunion. .dating back to at least 1956.
This was the first encounter many of us had had with one another in at least 5 years, if not 10 or 20.
I was happy to find 2 of my closest buddies there. .Katrina. .the blonde to the left. .and Dana. .the brunette snapping the photo! She is a fellow blogger friend, that I was fortunate to catch up with a few years ago via our blogs! In fact. .we go WAAAAAY back. .and I promised her a little surprise. .
. .a photo I found in our sophmore yearbook, that happened to be at my folks'. We were in the boys bathroom in the middle of the night at a yearbook lock-in. .and got caught!! We just wanted to know what if would be like to do our business and carry on a conversation at the same time. .I'm sure that there was a hideous pic of Katrina and I too. .but my yearbooks are packed away.
We had absolutely the MOST fun talking, telling stories, and laughing. .a SUPER time!!
This photo was snapped as the guy retreating by foot (no idea who he is) started to pop a water balloon on our friend Brian (he swallowed a car eraser in the 1st grade and we'll never let him forget that). As Brian tried to deflect it back on the unknown intruder. .it popped. .spewing right over Katrina and drenching me. .as you might notice the expressions of surprise from the females. Without thinking, I jumped up and sat on Brian's lap, doing a little "lap-dance" to remove water from my butt onto his. .pretty sure in hind site that the whole performace didn't look too good to an audience. .hoping no one I knew recognized me :-)
Dev and Cami got to ride with Grandma on the library float and throw candy.  Cami said "I was a good thrower. .but I hit a couple kids on assident." And I had to admit that I hit a few kids on accident too!
After the crazy kids got up from their naps. .I offered to watch the big kids. .numbering 9. .while the Catholic family members attended mass.
They were wild. .
. .and crazy. .
. .and ran so fast that I couldn't even begin to keep up!!
My extra baby sitters were here. .doing important things. .like texting!
I finally got the little kids to stand in the same spot so I could snap their pictures. .which was great. .for 2 seconds, until Dylan decided she needed to pick flowers instead. .
. .and before 2 more seconds had passed. .we had Grandma's flowers picked faster than a herd of grasshoppers. .
But she DID enjoy the lovely bouquet of purple flowers that we left for her in the kitchen.
This was the closest I came to getting a photo!! Cami would NOT look up, because she had injured her foot in the flower frenzy.
So after an hour of Auntie Mel chasing two-legged ants. .we decided it was movie time. .
. .and tractor driving for the men!
. .and they were quiet as could be. .
. .until the Tickle Torturer arrived!! Thankfully we got everyone settled back down just in time for Grandma to come home and watch 'em while we snuck out for drinks and dinner!!

The weekend was just what I needed to refresh. .and gain new perspective!  To be among old friends is priceless. .if you have never had to move from everything you had ever known to another community. .you may not understand what I mean. .It's is just comforting to be with people who knew you before you knew yourself!! And though, a lot of things have changed in 20 years. .NOT alot of things have changed in 20 years!! The time went too fast. .and there are too many questions that I didn't get to ask. .even harder to believe. .is that when we hook up in five more years. .several of us will have kids in college. .many will have high school age kids. .and some will even have grandchildren. .God forbid that to be me!  But as fast as time flies. .a few months will fly by, and it will soon be time to celebrate 25 years!
Have a super week, ya'll!!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Oatmeal on a Whole New Level

So here is my last new recipe to share. .a few months ago I found a recipe for oatmeal using steel cut oats. It had golden raisins and dried cranberries in it, topped with brown sugar and broiled. We like oatmeal, so I looked for the steel cut variety. .with no luck. Several weeks ago I spotted some by accident and picked them up, hoping that I could remember what the recipe was and that I could still find it in my conglomeration of loose recipes and dog-eared pages.
Luckily, I found the Taste of Home magazine. .and the dog-eared page. Steel cut oats, also known as Irish oatmeal or Scotch oats, are less processed than the other two versions. .quick and whole oats. .and the results are little oat-y nuggets. They do take a while to cook. .but the results are an oatmeal that has a little "chew" to it. .an experience that was not expected, but enjoyed.
After cooking the oats with water and milk for about 25 minutes (and you don't have to stir at all if you don't want too), you dump in this bowl of goodness. .
Cover with brown sugar. .
and broil until carmelized! It was really good. Everyone enjoyed it!
I went on a search for other recipes to use the steel cut oats with, and found a crockpot recipe, which I also tried out this week.  Using 1 cup of steel oats, 2 cups of milk and 2 cups of water, I mixed them in a glass bowl that would completely fit inside my slow cooker. I put water under the bowl to about 1/2 way up the side of the oatmeal bowl. This created a water bath effect to kinda steam and keep the oats creamy, instead of getting crispy or overcooked.  I turned the crockpot on low about 10:30, and we were greeted by the same chewy oatmeal by 7 am. Grant mixed peanut butter and brown sugar in his, Jeremy just sugar.

 My story is that last week I read a recipe over at everday with peggy that uses Nutella smashed between a couple of white chocolate chip cookies. The recipe looks divine, so this week I picked up a jar of Nutella so I could try it out. We have never eaten Nutella before. .I didn't even know what it was (it's hazelnut butter mixed with cocoa powder) Needless to say, that we were eating it straight out of the jar with our fingers. .ALL of us!! I put a spoonful of that in my oatmeal this morning. .delicious.

I also found a recipe for a no-knead bread using the oats. .which I would like to try soon as well. The dough has to sit out on the counter for about 18 hours after mixed up. Then it still takes a time frame of 3-4 hours that I need to be home watching it before it becomes bread. But, I love oatmeal bread. .and I'll bet the flavor rocks!

The bottom line is. .we like Steel Cut Oats! I think I will add them to a Sunday night breakfast menu on a regular basis! Another food marked off my "gotta try" foodie bucket list!
Enjoy your first full weekend of fall!!

Irish Oatmeal Brulee
8 cups milk
2 cups steel-cut oats
1 cinnamon stick (I used two)
1 orange peel strip (I used 2 tsp grated orange peel that I keep in my freezer)
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup maple syrup
buttermilk, optional
1/2 cup packed brown sugar

In large saucepan brung milk to boil. Add oats, cinnamon and orange peel. Reduce heat; simmer for 30 minutes or until thick and creamy, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, discard cinnamon. Stir in cranberries, raisins, syrup and buttermilk if desired. Cover and let stand for 2 minutes. Transfer to 8 ungreased ramekins. Place on baking sheet; sprinkle with brown sugar. Broil 8 inches from the heat for 4-7 minutes or until sugar is carmelized. Serve immediately.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Rolling Thrones

We attend a small community church out in the country. A few years ago, a few motivated parents started a junior high youth group to accommodate the aging population of our kids. This is our 3rd year now, and it just gets to be more fun every year. 
Now, I'll bet you wouldn't have expected to see this photo in a church related post. .but it's just one example of the things that small town-folk do to have a little fun!
Our game of the evening was a toilet bowl race. My team went first. .so they had to figure a few technical things out as they went. .
. .like how to make the corner around the tree without the toilet and its rider flying off the wagon. .
. .they are slow learners. .cause they tipped it over about 5 different times. .maybe more. Finally the toilet tank fell completely off, as you'll note in the above photo (impeccable photo timing, I might add). .
. .and by the wayside it went!!
The seat didn't last too many more rounds either. .and quickly became apparel. I think it totally makes his outfit, don't you?!
Each kid had to be a toilet rider. And the rest of them pushed, pulled, or hung on to the toilet. (ya know, AFTER they figured out that centrifical force is a REAL deal!!)
The groups were timed. .and those teams having less members, had to run extra laps to make it even. They were judged first on speed. .
. .and second on their individual riding styles!!
Conrad was the "poise" winner. .as he calmly read a hymnal while
Grant and Michale pulled him along. .
Before we started, we divided the kids into their small group assignments. They will be part of these groups for the first half of the year before mixing them up and redrawing groups for the second half. Each group made up a name for their individual groups AND a name to call the winners of the toilet race. Then we voted on which title the winning toilet team would carry. .

The choices. .
Professional Pickled Power Poopers. .
King/queen of the Throne. .
The Porcelain Dominators
 AND the winning choice. .
The Rolling Thrones!!
HAHAHAHA! That one still makes me giggle!
The winners of the speed contest was Dale's group "Gump (Stupid is as Stupid does)"
We let the other two groups take an honorary photo with the beaten toilet. .
Dave and Monika's team. .The "BrainFarts."
And my favorites (cause this is MY group)
"Adrenalin!" A name NOT chosen by me :-)
Our group of great youth and dedicated leaders!!

So the next time you are driving down a back-highway to nowhere. .and you see a bunch of people chasing toilets on wagons. .
Say a prayer for them, but pay them NO attention. .
They probably just didn't have anything better to do!

Blessings to you all. .and thanks for stopping by!!