Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Text Message Tuesday

Em: Does Finn get highlights?
Me: Highlights like in his hair? Umm...no.  He just has awesome hair.  He totally gets it from me, although Uriah claims otherwise!
Em: Not hair the magazine.
Me: No shit! :) no he doesn't! I feel like such a dumbass...
Em: U r awesome.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Parade of Sail

The Tall Ships came to Duluth last weekend.  It was a pretty incredible spectacle for someone who's never seen anything quite so...well, tall - and piratey, before.  We met some friends down by the shore to watch the ships parade past us and into Canal Park.  It was a mess of boys - 5 between the three of us (plus one teeny, sweetie girl) and we were joined by two more boys before the afternoon was over.  And as you can imagine, where there is water and boys, there is sure to be wetness and swimming.  The "only go out up to your knees" rule lasted 12 seconds with Finn - he sat down in the lake almost immediately.  I did think ahead and I had a change of clothes for him, but only because wearing big boy undies is still so new and with playing with friends, I wasn't sure he'd remember to tell me when he needed to go, so I wasn't too terribly concerned when he got soaked, I was just hopeful he didn't have an accident, too, or we would have been in a heap of trouble.  I just took off his shirt and let him have at the water; it's where he's happiest, and he had dry shorts and undies for the drive home.

The boys watched the ships for about 12 minutes, and then it was more fun to throw rocks and climb rocks and slide down rocks and lay on rocks and they were entertained for the rest of the afternoon by each other, the waves, the rocks, and occasionally the cannons that the ships shot off.

Next time the tall ships come through (in a couple of years, I'm sure), Finn will be a little older and I think it would be fun to actually go for a ride on one of the ships, or at least go down to Canal Park and look at them up close.  He was just a little too little this year and his attention span is still a little too short for us to brave the masses of people that converged upon Duluth.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Strawberry Insanity

It's been a whole lot of strawberries up in here lately.  The last time we went strawberry picking was 2 summers ago, Finn couldn't walk and it was a hot Iowa day.  Needless to say, we didn't last long in that patch.  We tried to go last summer before we left Iowa, but by the time I got myself organized and had carved out some time in the midst of packing, we were too late.  It's just as well, I wouldn't have had time to do anything with those strawberries last summer anyway, I was just being optimistic.

This year was different and our bounty was 10-fold what we had two years ago.  I've got a board devoted to all things strawberry on my Pinterest page and I can't wait to try a few new recipes.  I managed to make 3 batches of jam.  I used this recipe from The Pioneer Woman because it's really easy and because it's in her new cookbook, which my husband gave me as a surprise "just because" gift last spring, so it was readily accessible.  The pages are now slightly sticky and stuck together.  Try not to shudder at the 10-1/2 cups of sugar per batch.

I've got a list a mile long of what I want to make with all of these strawberries - and considering I have about 5 gallon-sized bags in the freezer, it will surely take me through the winter.
  • Strawberry Popsicles are top on my list (although we've been hovering in the high 60s, low 70s, so it hasn't really been hot popsicle weather up here).
  • I want to make some more Strawberry Syrup for ice cream and for pancakes and for waffles (and really, anything else I can think of to throw some strawberry syrup on - oatmeal, vanilla pudding...).
  • I really want to make some biscuits to go with the jam, and if I'm making biscuits, I might as well make some Strawberry Shortcake - or an alternative, Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake.
  • Last summer, to celebrate Julia Child's birthday, I made Strawberry Millefuille, which I will totally be making again because it was so light and amazing. 

I have been using this strawberry ice cream recipe for a couple of years.  It's easy and really, really good. Especially paired with the lemon ice cream that I made a couple of weeks ago.

Uriah requested that I make my mom's Strawberry Glaze Pie, so I did.  It doesn't take a lot of arm twisting to get me to make pie, and since he requests sweet things so infrequently, I like to oblige when I can.  I think my love language is food.

If you find yourself with a plethora of strawberries and need something to make - this pie is a summer staple. Clearly we couldn't even wait to dive into it!  You wouldn't necessarily have to use whole strawberries, although my mom always says it makes for a prettier presentation and I tend to agree.  A simpler solution would be to fill the pie crust with sliced strawberries and pour the glaze over them.

  • Baked pastry shell for a 8-9" pie
  • 1 cup strawberry juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablepoons cornstarch 
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 cups (or more) strawberries
To make the juice:  Measure 1 cup of strawberries, crush them, and add enough water to measure one cup.  Simmer for about 3 minutes; strain, discarding the strawberry pulp and keeping the juice.  Add water to the juice if necessary to measure 1 cup.

To make the glaze: Cook the juice, sugar, cornstarch, and salt over medium heat, stirring constantly until thick.  This part takes a bit of patience because it takes time for it to get to a thick syrup consistency.  Cool the glaze.

To assemble the pie:  Slightly wash and hull 2 cups (or more) of strawberries.  Arrange in the baked pie shell.  Coat with glaze and chill 2-3 hours.

Could someone please tell these two to stop growing?  2011 and 2013:

Monday, July 22, 2013

3 Bitty Birthday Parties

One of my friend's set it up for us to go strawberry picking at a local strawberry farm last week. We went early in the morning.  Happily, it had rained the night before, so there was a cool breeze, and we dominated those rows of strawberries.   Between my friend, Abby and a friend, and myself we managed to pick 16 ice cream pails of strawberries in about 2 hours.  Let me tell you, in case you were wondering, 8 pails of strawberries filled up my entire extra refrigerator as I sorted through them.  I should have weighed them.  Anyway, since then, I have been up to my elbows in strawberries, and feel as though I haven't had much time to devote to writing. Rest assured, I think about writing daily and the insane number of pictures from the last month hanging out on my hard drive taunts me as I make strawberry jelly and strawberry pie and strawberry ice cream.  I've put 5 gallon sized bags of whole frozen strawberries in my freezer and I'd really like to make some strawberry smoothies and strawberry shortcake.

Last night I finally sat down for an hour to sort through some of the pictures.  Holy goodness, there is a lot there.  More to come soon - and probably my mom's strawberry pie recipe, which I made for Uriah last weekend. This season is fleeting and I'm going to soak up as much as I can (both the strawberries and the boy!).

From Finn's 3 Bitty Birthday's last week | at home; with Grandma & Grandpa; with Auntie Sarah:

Sunday, July 14, 2013

3 Years Old | {Birthday Interview}

Favorite Color:  Blue
Favorite Book:  Dinosaurs
Favorite Animal: Elephant
Favorite Food:  Peanut Butter & Jelly
Favorite Fruit:  Honeydew
Favorite Song: A Peanut Sat on a Railroad Track
Favorite Toy: Cars & Pick-ups
Favorite Show: Dinosaur Train 
Favorite thing to do with Dad: Play cars & trains
Favorite thing to do with Mom: Go to the railroad

He speaks in long sentences.  He knows Dinosaurs are extinct and he can identify and name a few.  He says "please" and "thank you," usually without being reminded.  He's polite and generous; he loves to give hugs and kisses.  He likes to boss his sister around.  He's almost mastered the potty.  He likes to play mechanic shop with his tricycles (which he pronounces "trike-a-cyle.").  He reminds me often that he "belongs to his dad."  He likes to go to the park and to the library and to the grocery store.  When I take my walk, he likes to get out of the stroller and run ahead of me.  He loves the water - bath, shower, lake, pool.  He asks for "healing kisses" and "healing lotion" when he gets a bump.  He loves books.  He likes to dance and he can quote parts of the movie Madagascar, which is wildly amusing.  When he plays, he's started changing his voice for different characters (if two cars are talking to each other, they have different voices.).  He's always asking what kind of cars we see (Ford, Chevy, Honda...) and he wants to know what every semi-truck is hauling and where they're going.  He loves to be outside.  His chore is to take the compost out to the bin, which he does happily and carefully; he also likes to help with the dishes.  If Abby has a chore to do, Finn wants to do it, too.  He doesn't like loud noises and if something is scary to him, he immediately covers his ears.  He loves to play play-dough and has recently discovered superheros (mostly Iron Man) and Uriah's old Transformers.  He tells me I'm pretty and he loves to help me cook in the kitchen.  

I have mixed emotions about this birthday.  Time is going so much quicker that I ever anticipated, and I knew it was going to go fast.  But this fast?  I count my blessings every day that we are together - me and this boy who made me a mom.  I am happiest when he is close by.  I love his independence.  I look forward to this next year of learning and growing and changing.

Happy 3rd Birthday to my Sweet Darling Lovey.
You are my sunshine.

Finn's Second Birthday here | Finn's First Birthday here | Finn's First Birthday Party here and here | Things I learned about pregnancy here and being a new mom here.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Mama says there'll be days like these...

I had one of those days yesterday.  You know the kind that you sort of want to forget, but really all you can do is laugh because, after all, isn't this life?  And someday, won't I want to remember the day Finn went streaking 3 times?

I got my early morning workout in.  I met my lovely friend for a walk and chat before the heat of the day made exercise impossible.  I gardened and gardened and gardened, pulling overgrown plants that I'd wanted to remove for weeks now, tending all the little radish and cucumber and squash shoots, feeling relatively proud of my little peas that are starting to make their presence known.  Weeding and watering, weeding and watering.  My hands and legs and feet were a crusty, muddy mess, my back was sunburned and my hair had a tree's worth of sticks tangled up in it.  I may have gotten a little absorbed in my task.

Finn, however, felt that being naked was more his style yesterday.  I glanced up from digging a huge cluster of overgrown something out of the garden, only to see little pink buns race past me.  Luckily our back yard is pretty well shielded from the street, but I dropped my shovel quickly and chased down my little exhibitionist. I explained that we need to keep clothes on when we are outside, re-dressed him, and went back about my business.  I was huffing and puffing and trying to get my shovel all the way under the root cluster (because I do not want these things back!) and I looked up to find Finn - naked again - in the bird bath (it's actually an in-ground water fountain, but we call it a bird bath.  It's not very big, so really, he was only wet up to his knees from splashing, but he had his little naked buns sitting on a nice warm rock).  I plucked him from the water, reminded him again that we need to have clothes on when we're outside, and sent him on his way to make a construction site in the sandbox.

I went back to my digging and sweating and cursing the blasted root systems that are found in nature, when it occurred to me that I couldn't hear construction site "noises."  In fact, I didn't hear anything.  I walked around the side of the house - no Finn in the sandbox.  I walked all the way around the house.  No Finn anywhere.  I walked into the house, and the minute I opened the door, I heard a little voice say: "Just go back outside, Mama.  I'm making a snack."

And there he was, standing on his stool at the counter, half a loaf of bread spread out before him, pouring pancake syrup all over it.  Stark naked.

The appliance repair man came to fix the dishwasher - thankfully, Finn was fully clothed at the time and remained so for the duration of his visit.  The dishwasher started up immediately for him, I'm assuming just to screw with me.  I almost had a heart attack, partly because I couldn't believe it had started and partly because I was excited to bypass that bill.  Unfortunately, it stopped almost as quickly as it started, but after an hour of fiddling around and doing appliancey-things, it's now fixed and we are back to the convenience of a dishwasher.

Our baby-sitter showed up about the same time Uriah got home from work and declared that he still needed to take a shower before we could leave.  All of the power went out in Canal Park, where we wanted to have dinner.  We couldn't find a gift at the toy store down there, so we ended up having to trek up the hill to Target.  We thought about having dinner at a neighborhood place that had been recommended to Uriah, but upon being seated and looking at the menu, we both decided we wanted something different so we got up and left (something I have never done before, and honestly felt a little bit bad about doing, but there was nothing on the menu that appealed to me).  We headed back down to Canal Park to see if the power was back on.  It was hit or miss at most restaurants, the wait was long and everyone was crabby, so we headed back up the shore toward home and had dinner at Clearwater Grille.  At about 8:15.  It wasn't bad, but after sitting on the patio for 10 minutes, it started to sprinkle and the wind picked up, so we headed inside to finish our dinner.

I demanded a date-night redux, which we will need to accomplish before our baby-sitter leaves for college in the fall.  If we go on a quick date within 15 minutes of home, we usually leave Abby in charge of Finn.  However, we do hire a baby-sitter for Finn when we head into Duluth for our date, since that puts us a minimum of 30 minutes away from home, longer if we have to head up the hill.  If something were to happen, Abby is obviously not able to drive yet, so we tend to err on the side of caution and leave him with someone who could schlep him to the ER if necessary.  

Blast from the past:
My little one-year-old chubby lump, back when morning and afternoon naps were necessary. | August 2011

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Fish Tacos with Grilled Corn & Avocado Salsa - and also, some nostalgia.

When we got back from Kansas City last weekend, our cupboards were bare - as in, I put Old Mother Hubbard to shame.  I had obviously done a great job of cleaning everything out of the refrigerator before we left, and Uriah obviously did a great job of eating frozen pizzas for a week.  So immediately after unloading every single thing from my over-stuffed car, I sat down to figure out what we would be eating this week.

I knew Uriah would be grilling at least once or twice (because again - frozen pizza. For a week.), so I wanted to take full advantage of the hot coals. I planned for Fiesta Grilled Chicken Salads with Creamy Jalapeno Dressing (I'll blog this little darling later this week - it also utilizes the Grilled Corn and Avocado Salsa), Grilled Veggie Sandwiches, and Fish Tacos with Grilled Corn and Avocado Salsa.

Corn on the cob - or "corn on the bob," as Finn calls it - was on sale this week and I stocked up.  It's pretty easy to grill, just peel back the corn husk layers so you can remove all of the silky inside corn hair (what is that stuff called?  I'm sure there's a technical term for it...).  Then just put the layers of corn husk back around the cob and stick it on your grill (on indirect heat, a term I learned from my husband - it means not right over the coals.  I feel smart when I talk in grill-lingo.), turn occasionally, until you get some nice charred parts to the kernels.  I have heard that some people put butter or a little bit of olive oil on the corn before peeling the layers back up, but I don't.  I think it grills just fine and I really didn't want to add an extra fat to my meal.  You also wouldn't necessarily have to use grilled corn for the salsa, I've done it with frozen corn, that I've thawed, too.  I have never used canned corn.  I do not cook with canned vegetables.

So, anyway...this is seriously the easiest dinner ever.  In the time it took the oven to preheat and my tilapia fillets to bake, I made the corn salsa (using previously grilled corn).  I served it with a big bowl of chopped up summer fruit (honeydew, cantaloupe, watermelon, grapes, pineapple) and it was perfect and light.  Everything was done within a half an hour.

  • Grilled Corn Salsa Recipe (I did not have a jalapeno in the house, so I omitted that this time, but it does give the salsa a little extra kick)
  • 4 tilapia fillets - about 4 oz. each
  • Olive oil
  • Chili powder
  • Chipolte powder
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 8 Fajita-sized flour tortillas

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  

Place tilapia fillets on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Drizzle lightly with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and lightly with the chili powder and chipolte powder.  If you want a spicier fish, use more chipolte, but keep in mind, a little goes a long way - I only seasoned one side of the fish.  Bake in oven for 6-10 minutes, or until fish turns white.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes. 

Meanwhile make the Grilled Corn and Avocado Salsa using this recipe.  

To put together your tacos, warm the tortillas in the microwave at 20 second intervals until warm but not hot.  Place 2 warmed tortilla on a plate, roughly chop or break apart one tilapia fillet and place half on each of the tortillas.  Put 2 tablespoons of the corn salsa on top of the fish and roll.  Repeat with remaining tacos and fish.

A look back:  Little piggies at almost a year old | June 2011

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Pop-Up Vacation - you know, from 3 weeks ago.

I am behind...behind in laundry, behind in blogging (which I said I would be more diligent about), behind in my reading (I have 3 books checked out from the library, 2 of which I've started - and a list of books I still want to tackle).  And honestly...I'm not too concerned about any of it.  

We just got back from a week in Kansas City with my sister and trying to fit in visiting all of our extended family down there (I learned that it's kind of impossible, even with a week's worth of time, and I'm trying not to feel too guilty about those we missed.).  We had a bridal shower for my baby sister and spent 4th of July at the pool.  We left behind 91 degree weather for 55 degree fogginess.  And we're making up for 10 long days away from Uriah.

Before we left for the dirty, dirty South we took a pop-up vacation to Leech Lake, which was really a working vacation for Uriah - so not really a vacation for him at all - but it was for the rest of us!  And although it rained one of the 3 days we were there, but we managed to squeeze in some marshmallow roasting, some boating, fishing, and swimming and, of course, a little bit of HGTV (I need my fix when we leave our cable-free home!).

This week we are preparing for Finn's 3rd Birthday!  I can hardly believe 3 years have zoomed by, but I am staying stoic and trying to to cry all day long.  On the plus side, he's almost completely potty trained - still just a pull-up at night because it's hit or miss yet.  Of all of the struggles these past 3 years have brought us, potty training is by far my own personal hell.

So...while I'm planning super-hero themed birthday fun and rainbow pancakes and an Iron Man cake, I also hope to sort through the 1000+ pictures from our week away from home.  I'm tring not to miss morning naps with my sweetie sugar lump nephew and my husband has planned an an honest-to-goodness-hired-a-babysitter-and-everything date (which really means we need to get Finn a birthday present and we don't want him along while we decide).  I need to weed a week's worth of junk out of my gardens, but mostly I need to try not to be a basket case about my baby not being a baby.