Wednesday, August 31, 2011

still here...

Having survived last week's mid-Atlantic earthquake, and the weekend of Hurricane Irene, I feel like I have been on another planet or something.  Is there anything going on anywhere else in the world?  Add to the weather our 36 hour non-voluntary "electricity fast"  (i.e. storm knocked out power), and some minor health issues, and I just feel exhausted and unmotivated today.  Yesterday was the reverse...full of energy, and a cleaning fiend, as when else can you clean the bottom of the chest freezer but when you've had to move all the food out of it for a power outage?

Anyway, not trying to throw myself a pity party, just wanting to let you know that, yes, I'm still here. Regaining my momentum and balance in my life, and soon, hopefully, I will be rejoining you with more of my normal: family fun, crafty moments, my garden, and the other minutiae of my life. Just now, however, hmm...a nap?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

summer peaches = peach cake!

August means peaches from the farm stand. Peaches mean peach cake. And while peach cake is definitely a family tradition, the opinions abound as to which way is "best"...we had quite a discussion on Sunday at a family get-together complete with my 4, my parents, my mom's 3 siblings and their spouses, and my two cousins.  Which is best? Is it the thick chewy crust? The thin crust? The spongy cake? Peaches laid out in neat rows? Peaches scattered willy-nilly? Well, it turns out, there is no one best way! Or rather, we each have our favorites, and will continue to make our own variations. 

My favorite? A light, spongy, oh-so-buttery recipe that I adapted from one I got from my friend Leslie. Start with peaches, peeled and sliced thin into bite-sized pieces:

I use about 3 cups of slices, or as many as I can fit onto the cake!  Here's the rest of the recipe:
  • Preheat the oven to 350 F and place 1 stick unsalted butter in a 13x9 baking dish, and place in oven to melt the butter.
  • Meanwhile, mix together:  1 1/3 cups flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt.
  • Mix in 1 cup sugar, and 1 cup milk.  Mixture will start to bubble...this is good!
  • Remove the hot dish from the oven once butter is melted, and pour in the batter, swirling the melted butter in a little bit so it doesn't all pool at the edges.
  • Drop the pieces of peach on top one by one until you have filled every little space!
  • Bake about 40 minutes, or until puffed up, golden brown, and set.
  • Serve with vanilla ice cream, preferably while cake is still warm. OK for breakfast the next day too!
 Hope you are enjoying your summer produce!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

create:: boy's flag garland

The boy has a nice big bedroom. He has a fun quilt I reconstructed last fall from a larger one, and he has the left-over quilt squares framed, for some great wall art. The curtains were lovingly sewn from an extra set of pottery barn sheets (consignment shop score!). And yet...

The walls in his room are that dreaded "apartment-white" color. I'm not quite ready to paint them, and the big wall just seemed a little bit, well, plain.  So when I made a flag garland (pennant banner, whatever you want to call it) for the Fourth of July to decorate our food area, an idea was born.  I reused some of those patriotic red, white, and blue fabrics; added some yellow and a great "transportation" print from Joann's, and got to work.
Here's the brief how-to.  Cut triangles from fabric with pinking shears.  Sandwich the top edges between the folds of some 1/2" double-fold bias tape (I used navy), and sew along the open edge of the bias tape. Hang with upholstry tacks or other decorative tacks.  Voila! His room now looks much more complete, and put together.  When he gets a little bit bigger (i.e. less prone to get into things when he's supposed to be napping), I foresee some accessories along that dresser. Alas, for now it must stay bare. But the room still looks pretty good, to my eye. And he loves his new banner.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

summer fun:: stay-cation, part 2...

After our adventures at the Lego Brickfair, and our trip to the movies, we were ready to get outside and get active. So our adventure this Wednesday was to Six Flags America, an amusement park that is not too far to be a good day trip.  We had an enormous amount of fun, and in fact, I barely touched my camera all day. But here's proof that we were there....

On to Thursday. And our first adventure was taking the little buddy to get two stitches in his chin, after slipping running up a couple steps in our house.  But that only really served to make him look tougher for our evening adventure, sailing with Pirate Adventures on the Chesapeake.  This is something I've thought for a long time would be a lot of fun. Its a little on the pricey side but we did have a great time....starting with the tough pirate tatoos, sailing out following the "treasure map", shooting Pirate Pete with the water-cannons to get the treasure chest keys back, sharing in the pirate booty and finding a secret stash of "grog" to celebrate.  It was the most gorgeous evening of the week, too...not too hot, clear, and overall, a great time to be out on the water in Annapolis.

Day five, of our Stay-cation, was a trip into Washingon, D.C.  This is usually a day-trip I do on my own with the kids, and it was fun to have the hubby join us.  First we wandered around the Washington monument (not knowing we should have requested tickets ahead of time!), and saw the World War II memorial.  Then off to the Smithsonian:  American history for lunch, dollhouses and first ladies dresses (girls), and trains and cars and things that go (boys).  A stop in Natural History to "see my friend T. Rex", as the boy put it, and enjoy some time in their hands-on discovery room.  And finally, a walk through the National Gallery of Art since the girlie had put "visit an art museum" at the top of her summer wish list. The statue below was my favorite art of the day, a "Young girl reading"...sadly I didn't record who sculpted it. She was just luminous.  A busy day... and a good way to wrap up our week, go home, and collapse in a heap of exhaustion.  What a week!

summer fun:: lego-mania and...

...other fun. This post should be sub-titled, "Stay-cation, part 1".  This past week we had originally planned to be back at the lake in NC, but ended up needing to stay near home, so hubby and I planned a bunch of fun things to do with the kids.

Enter, day 1: last Sunday we drove out to the Dulles Expo Center for Brickfair, which is officially called a "LEGO fan festival". Now, I am not particularly a lego fan. Or fanatic.  Although perhaps a little crazy about legos, especially when I step on the tiny pieces that blend into the carpet, or when I can't find a horizontal surface in the family room to put a drink down on. Seriously, though, my hubby is a fanatic of the good kind, and is busy growing up the kids into little lego fanatics as well. Even while I am typing today, they are in the kitchen, making a new creation at the kitchen table. But I digress...

So, away to the Lego festival we went. And it really was fun, and fascinating to see all the crazy things that people spend hours and hours building with legos.  Not so different, perhaps, from me spending a year, off-and-on, knitting a sweater. So, I kinda get it. And they are pretty neat to look at. See?

parade down the city main-street...
giant cranes...
Russian cathedrals...

and a fascinated family!
Day 2 of our stay-cation was a long-awaited trip to see "Cars 2" at the theater...the little guy's first theater movie ever! He had a great time, as did we all.  Its a clever movie, the popcorn was as yummy as ever, and a great escape for a few hours of fun.  Stay tuned for the rest of our crazy week....

Saturday, August 6, 2011

summer fun:: beach trip

All the cousins at the Jersey Shore!
There are very few places on earth I love more than the beach. Ocean views, salt air, sandy toes, and I am a happier person for just being there. So this week was a wonderful break as the kids and I headed to Wildwood and Cape May, NJ, for 2 nights with my parents, and also with extended family of 2 of my cousins, their families, who are now cousins to my kids, and also my aunt and uncle. We try to do this annually if possible,  as our families live far and wide now, and it's great to get together and relax.  I love seeing my kids, especially the girlie, building friendships with her cousins. 
on the beach with Grandma and Grandpa
cute cousins in cute swim suits
This year we also saw her boldly go where she had not gone before...out into the waves, riding a boogie-board with joy and wild abandon. So much that I had to drag her out of the cold-ish water every hour or two to warm up and rest! Both kids loved playing in the water this year, much more than past years.

serious about that big wave...
all the cousins...out to catch a wave!
There was also plenty of splashing on the shore, digging holes and looking for treasure.  The girlie at one point kept digging and digging and finally asked, "When will I get to the bottom?"

We also celebrated the girlie's birthday with the family while we were together, and I think you can see the delight on her face.
So, all in all, it was fun, it was short, but it was the beach. And we all had a very good time.

summer fun:: farm fair

Playing a little bit of "catch-up", time has not allowed me to share a few of our latest fun events until now.  So these photos are actually from last weekend, when we went up to the Harford County Farm Fair.  The fair is the agricultural / 4-H fair for the county where I grew up, and we enjoy it's small-town feel, and hubby loves to go up for the tractor pulls.  The draft horse pulls are more my speed (and much quieter!) but truly, its all fun. 
Some of our other favorites include "Candy and Cupcake", a children's musical show, that just happens to be performed by one of my mom's best friends.  Its a fun show that the kids always enjoy, and extra fun to have Miss Candy single them out and make them feel special.
All four of us love the "Dock Dogs" competition...I always think when I'm watching them that I'd love to train a dog to do this if and when we finally get a dog. For those who have never seen it, these dogs compete for how high and how far they can jump, into a large pool, as if off a dock.
And the Farm Fair is also about all the baby animals, the 4-H and produce displays, climbing on the tractors and heavy equipment that dealers display, talking to the local firefighters, and eating lots of hot dogs, funnel cake, and cotton candy.  Its all good clean fun (ok, the cotton candy is good sticky fun). And we always have a ball.  Going to the farm fair just says "summer".

Friday, August 5, 2011

little girl turning six

On this day six years ago, my first child, my wonderful girl, came into the world.  She was in a hurry...less than 5 hours of labor, and only an hour and a half at the hospital, before she arrived.  And then she was screaming mad.  Something about this world being a lot bigger, colder, and brighter than she had imagined, and she cried for most of her first three hours.  

Since then, she has retained her flair for the dramatic, and still takes on new things with great energy and enthusiasm.  This summer, as she turns six, I have loved seeing her reading chapter books that she couldn't have a few months ago; I have watched her joy as she learned to boogie-board at the ocean with her cousins; I have seen her gain confidence swimming in the pool.  I see her as a girl who makes friends easily, who smiles readily, who loves a new adventure.

Happy sixth birthday, baby girl! You are my love and my delight.  I can't wait to see what God will bring to your life this coming year!