Tuesday, May 29, 2012

summertime silliness

Just a few pictures to make you smile! Summer has arrived, whether the calendar says it has or not. The pool is open and the kids didn't let the cold water stop them yesterday (its only 72 degrees! too cold for me) so I'm sure there will be swimming pictures in the next few days. But for now....

My little reader, laid out on top of the kids picnic table, wearing her "Reading" Medal from school. She was SO proud to be one of the top 15 first-grade readers in the Chessie Reading program...she read 57 books this year for that program alone (not counting all the other books she read). The apple doesn't fall far from the tree...this girl is a reader like her momma! Oh, and those teeth are growing in...maybe there will be corn-on-the-cob this summer after all!

And my Superman! I Couldn't believe the vibrant colors in this photoshop at all on this one! I just can't get enough of this smiling face. How I love that boy!

strawberries equal summer

Last week the boy and I took a morning to head to a strawberry farm about 40 minutes from our house. We have been harvesting strawberries from our garden every few days but it has been 6 and 8 at a time, great for a snack but not for my grander plans. So off we went, and what a fun time we had. In no time (ok, it probably took about 45 minutes) we had picked a large flat full of berries, just shy of 15 pounds!

 During that time, my boy was such a good helper. I did have to remind him occasionally every two seconds: "Pick the BRIGHT red ones, not the pink ones...put them into the box gently!" (He liked to drop them from waist high) but really, truly, he was a good helper, a hard worker and I will take him berry picking any time!
 Toward the end, there was more snacking than saving, but that's half the fun. Here's the boy, two-fisting the strawberries!
 Our bounty! So what do you do with fifteen pounds of strawberries? Well, I'm glad you asked :) Over the course of several more days, this is what we did:
  • Made 20 8-oz. containers of freezer jam. I tried two different recipes, and the one I liked best was from Mom on a Mission, we used 2 cups of sugar for 4 cups of pureed berries, and I did batches with both the regular pectin and the lower sugar pectin, both turned out great. I love a thicker, more spreadable jam, more than a runnier jelly-like jam, and I loved that this recipe used half the sugar of the other recipe I used, I think the strawberry taste comes through more.
  • Froze a gallon bag of strawberry pieces, in batches. You wash and stem the berries and cut the bigger ones into halves or quarters. Lay them out on a rimmed cookie sheet lined with parchment or waxed paper, and freeze flat for several hours before transferring them to a zipper freezer bag. Great for baking in non-strawberry months.
  •  Made a batch of Strawberry oat muffins. These are a yummy breakfast treat...and flourless, for any of you gluten-free readers! They are quite healthy and disappeared fast!
  •  Made two strawberry pies. Modified version of my mom-mom's recipe (because I'm sure she didn't have sugar-free jello!). First make (or buy) a graham-cracker crust and fill it with sliced berries! Then  I used the large box of sugar-free strawberry jello mixed with a tablespoon of cornstarch, made with 1 1/2 cups of boiling water and then ice cubes and cold water to make 3 cups total. Pour over berries, until full. Refrigerate until set. Mmm...mmm...good. THIS is the one food that says "Summer is here" to me. 
  • Just a cup or two of berries left now. I'm sure they will get sliced into salads or over the leftover jello from the pies. Then I've only to decide how many more pounds of berries we can process while it's still strawberry season!
muffins with freezer jam in background

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

virginia vacation, part 3 (5.19.12 and 5.20.12)

Our last day and a half in Virginia was spent touring Colonial Williamsburg. I was amazed at how much there was to see. I had been to Williamsburg several times as a college student but had never paid for the admission ticket that gets you into all the buildings and programs (anyone can walk around the outdoor areas for free). There was so much...amazing reconstructions of 18th century life in America just prior to the Revolutionary War. Highlights for us included the fife and drum parade that included about 10 different bands (it was a special event weekend, usually there is just the one fife and drum band). We also enjoyed the stocks, the gaol (jail), the Governor's palace maze, and craftsmen like the Cabinetmaker, the Milliner, the Gunsmith, and the Weaver. I was in love with the gardens, both kitchen gardens and flower gardens were just beautiful.  We had originally planned one day in Williamsburg and a half day in Yorktown, but ended up spending the extra half day in Williamsburg, just to take it all in. Yorktown will have to wait for another trip.

Lots of photos! Hope you enjoy!

In front of the Governor's Palace
 At this point, my hip must have bumped my camera in just the right accidently switched to monochrome until I realized it a while later...consider it "artistic"!
Locked up

The Printing Press
Cabinetmaker's tools
The Gaol where Blackbeard's pirates were locked up!
King's Arms tavern picture for my parents! (They know why!)
Boy in a "Tricorn" carrying his (umbrella) rifle.
"Where are you in the maze?"
 Which brings us back home again. Lots going on around here this week too...we'll get to that.

virginia vacation, part 2 (5.18.12)

Busch Gardens Williamsburg!  This was the "no learning required" day between our other days of education disguised as fun. We met up with family friends who had moved to Virginia Beach, and had a great day enjoying the park. The girlie loved the Loch Ness Monster Roller Coaster, riding it 3 times (and would have gone again if the park hadn't been closing). We realized we are never too old to enjoy seeing Elmo. And we laughed and had fun all day long. (Well, except for the scary ride mentioned in the previous post!). Great fun was had by all.

A gorgeous end to a fabulous day!

virginia vacation, part 1 (5.17.12)

Hello! I've so much to tell about our four days in the "Historic Triangle" of Virginia, I'm going to split up the posts some. We left last Thursday for a mini-vacation, some learning, some fun. Between Jamestown, Williamsburg and Busch Gardens, I think we each learned several valuable lessons and perhaps a little history.

Lessons I learned included:
  • don't hesitate to linger in places where the kids are engaged and happy. Making clay pots with a Powhatan Indian reenactor or rolling hoops with a stick leave a lasting impression! 
  • interactive exhibits are much more interesting to mommy and to kids than displays and placards. don't worry if you skip some of the "educational material" and go straight for the active stuff.
  • think, think three or more times, before taking kids on an amusement park ride that might be scary. Whoops. Still hearing about the "Dark Castle" days later. 
  • down time is important! Especially for young kids. Oh, and mommy too. I think daddy held up ok. We did a lot, and by the end of the trip we were whooped. Must remember this one when we go to Colorado for 9 days!
  • as my brother once taught us, "Feed the bear!" Grouchy people are often hungry people. Stop for a snack or move mealtime if whining and grumpiness start up.
Enough of the lessons. On to the photos! Our first day in Virginia we went to Historic Jamestown, and then up the road to Jamestown Settlement, which is a recreation of James Fort and the Powhatan village. Your history refresher is this: Jamestown was the first permanent English settlement in North America.  Lots of talk of Pocahontas, Captain John Smith, and a lot of dead people. Because dead people are fascinating to kids, and the reality is, lots of people died in those first years at Jamestown.

Captain John Smith
Birthplace of Virginia and the U.S.A.
Walking with Pocahontas

Modeling 17th century Armor
Happy boy on a cannon, right before we got yelled at by an employee for climbing!

Abord the Susan Constant, also seen below