Friday, September 30, 2011

Fast Forward Friday....

Yesterday I took the 8 X 10 frame off the wall to add Lauren's new Kindergarten photo.  Every year I do this I still can't believe how fast time is going.  Wasn't I just pregnant with Evan and dropping Lauren off at her very first preschool and time away from me?  (to which she didn't quite care for in the beginning!) I would feel my blood pressure rise and hope that the drop off would go smoothly.  That situation worked itself out nicely, but that first call from the teacher telling me "she's still crying and I want this experience to be fun for her" just made me angry and sad all rolled into one.  
Soon after this photo was taken Lauren got glasses (thanks to the eye check at school) and became a big sister.  Big milestones and accomplishments as this little 2.5 year old started to spread her wings.
This was Lauren's second year of preschool and they had curbside drop off!  Oh how wonderful that was! I had Evan in his infant carrier and I remember how quickly these three hours went.  Even now I wonder where the time goes.  She's off the school bus as quickly as she gets on!
This was Lauren's second year of preschool and second round of photos.  This is her executive look.  Practicing up for the great things to come in her life!  (and there was a matching skirt to this "blazer"!  LOVE!)
This was year THREE of preschool~All day, M, W, F (You don't really think about when your child will start school and what age he/she will be on or before Sept. 1 when you get pregnant!)   This prepared us both for all day Kindergarten.  We were all really really ready!  

And there you have it!  Here is Lauren, soon to be SIX years old and a Kindergartner! AMAZING! She is loving school and is a sponge for learning!  She is reading simple books already and is on her way.  It is so exciting to see the process/progress with the reading and writing. 
She read this book to me and did her homework on Wednesday night with such passion and delight. (and this was after Spanish class too!)  It's like she doesn't want to stop learning. I found some flashcards for high-frequency words that you see over and over again when you begin to read. After a long day of school and Spanish she didn't want to stop going over the flashcards.  It helps me to see life in a new light. That we need passion or we don't get anywhere~we need that burning desire inside to learn something new or get out of our box.  
So far this whole school thing has been amazing and I'm so proud of Lauren. She's becoming this new little person. And I know that when I'm adding her graduation picture to the frame I will love her even more than this very moment because as she changes and grows I will too. Our relationship will broaden, deepen and challenge us both. But that is kind of the point! This is why I had children.  I'm happy to be on this journey. Roses and thorns everyday!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Life with Evan....

With Sissy at school all day, Evan and I have transitioned into a nice little routine.  The first part of our day we take a nice long power walk (weather permitting and yes, I'm over the rain this week!)  And every single time we get to this bridge we MUST stop and say hello to the water and search for ducks and frogs and turtles.  (to which we never find a one!)
Evan insists on touching both railings on both sides of the bridge.  Please, do not mess with the routine Mom!
Throw in a sippy cup, some cheddar bunnies and a Matchbox car and we are good to go!
View from up top!  
We found another caterpillar on our walk.  Well, let's hope it's really a caterpillar and not a nasty tomato horn worm, as we previously captured and thought we had a butterfly in our future!  More googling needs to take place to confirm this!
I feel kind of bad that I captured this one.  He just seemed so adamant on crawling out of the stroller cup holder.
 "Look lady, just let me go.  Really, you can check out my whole life cycle thing on the internet."
"Should I just jump?"
 Next we make a stop at the park.  The slide was wet and there really wasn't any "sliding" taking place!
 More like a "scootch" down the slide!
And of course a bouncy ride on the motorcycle.  My sister long ago told me about the trick of "we do the swings last and after we swing we leave."  Good one Sissy K.  I use it daily!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Eggplant Lasagna, minus the noodles....

Here is Evan with a big 'ol plate of eggplant lasagna for lunch. (Making a goofy face....I swear he doesn't look like this!) I propped him up on the counter for some photos (of course he is NOT wearing pants, but at least he's not naked in the kitchen this time!)  He has underwear on for the record.
I didn't take photos of the whole process but here is a  photo of my noodle-less lasagna before I heated it up.  That is a lovely eggplant round under all that cheese!  I even kept the skin on the eggplant for texture and it baked up nicely.  On Sunday we harvested two eggplants and what the heck do you really do with them?  I'm not even sure I like eggplant!  But sliced and baked into ricotta, shredded cheese and a tomato sauce....it was delish!
Here you can see all the layers of eggplant, yellow squash and overall lasagna goodness!  I didn't even miss the noodles.  And I wasn't doing this for health, no carb reasons.  I just thought I'd try something different.  The texture was just like regular lasagna.  I got the idea from this recipe at Country Living magazine, but you can find a ton on the internet.  In my opinion, whatever veggie you want to layer in here would be great.  
And here is Evan, in true form, giving me his silly face.  I don't even know where he learned this.
I'm just asking for one normal face Evan.  This is not a good look!  But you are cute.
Evan's lunch heated up and a cheesy mess of goodness it is!
Digging in!
YUM!
A recipe that the whole family enjoyed!  Well, Lauren had a breakdown on Sunday about eating this.  I'm not sure why.  She is such a great eater and tries almost anything.  She loves noodles, tomato sauce, ricotta cheese, veggies, etc.  We held firm on the "this is what's for dinner....eat it or get nothing else" and after a small tantrum, some tears and whining she left the table only to return while I was cleaning up and took a few huge bites and told me she loved it.  KIDS.  Whatever!  Who can begin to understand them????

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fried, with bacon.....

We had a bunch of lovely green tomatoes left in the garden last week and I just can't let little buggers go unused.  I was inspired by this fried green tomato BLT recipe over at Tasty Kitchen.  Now, no big deal~  fried green tomatoes,  I know.  BUT!  I finally found the secret! 
First of all, the recipe says to cook some bacon and THEN fry your tomatoes in that bacon fat! (GASP!)  I didn't do that because I forgot and really, is that even legal?  I did however put a bit of bacon fat over the top of the fried tomatoes in the end.  Just for fun.  Just for flava-flav.
But the secret (or at least I never knew this!) is to dip the tomatoes in milk, flour, egg, and then cornmeal! It's the double dip process that helps all that goodness adhere and stay there while frying.  In the past, I didn't double dip (milk/egg AND flour/cornmeal) and the fried part just slid right off while removing them from the pan.  And let's be honest here folks, are we making these to eat the tomato or the fried crunchy part???  I made these and then put a slice of bacon on top and a spoonful of roasted cherry tomatoes from the garden.  Very delish and simple.  A good way to end the harvest!
And as we bid our farewells to summer, the kids found this fine fellow on the eggplant that never produced any eggplants.
 I'll take this guy over that horn worm creature any day!
It's as if he looked right at me while I was taking his picture!  "Well, hello there!"

Monday, September 26, 2011

Classic....

This may be the last remaining pair of ear plugs straight from the stashes of Scott Paper Co. in Marinette, WI!  (Compliments of the late Tom Kushman I might add!)  When the hubs and Evan went to Marinette/Menominee a few weekends ago (ah, the glorious girls weekend it was!) he returned with some random goodies from my mom's house.  I came across these ear plugs and had to smile!  They are a vintage treasure (in my humble opinion!)
I get a kick out of these instructions:  ROLL~INSERT~HOLD!  I think my mom has seen the disgusting pair of earplugs lying around the house that the hubs using while cutting grass (when he remembers!) They are gross!  In true mom-like fashion, she's always lookin' out for us!
And for those of you who can't read, we have a full illustration of how to ROLL~INSERT~HOLD!  I love it!  I have fond love-hate memories of all those summers I spent in college working at the paper mill.  Thanks to the nepotism policy (you could only work at the mill if you had a parent working there!) I left college 100% debt free.  And that is amazing!  Those long hot summers of work reinforced in me the desire for a college degree and to get the hell out of that small town.  I could literally feel myself getting itchy to leave, to travel, to experience life, to grow, to change, to break free~to quiet all those voices inside myself telling me this wasn't gonna cut it.  I needed more.  I was more.

College was the first stepping stone to "leaving the nest."  So much has changed since the early '90s. (I graduated from college in '93)  It was a life-changing experience.  I loved it.  I wish the same for my children.  It's a magical time in one's life.  I just turned 40 and it's exciting to start a new list of dreams for myself.  To figure out "what to do with my life."  That feeling never goes away.  And if it does, I think I've stopped being true to myself.

Here's a shout out to Oprah (miss you!  miss your show!) and "the one thing I know for sure":  I shouldn't have worried or cared so much about what other people thought about me. And, I had really incredible parents and to this day I know I can always go home.

And all this from a little 'ol pair of earplugs.  I love how that happens!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Gross-Out....

Last Saturday Lauren and I left the house and glanced at our "caterpillar."  You know the kind that turn into lovely beautiful monarch butterflies?  The kids found it in the garden and we were all excited and researching on how to take care of it, etc.  

Well it turns out not all caterpillars are created equal.  This was not a caterpillar after all.  Nope.  What we had was a tomato horn worm from the garden.  That little sucker was the culprit  of why some of our tomatoes had little holey bite marks in them.  When we left the house I noticed a few (like maybe THREE!) of these little white things.  I googled it and promptly grossed out.  By the time we returned home this thing was covered in the white things.  

Here is the You Tube video I encountered:
This was a tomato horn worm we had on our hands.  And it turns out that the braconid wasp attacks this horn worm and lay eggs INSIDE the horn worm and the white things are larva that make their way and these are the cocoons.  (SICK!  GROSS!  But, WOW!!!)


 I like these shots.  I just stuck my camera in the top of the jar.
If I didn't know what that actually was, I would think...."pretty cool!"
Had we not promptly removed this sucker from the house, those little cocoons would turn into wasps.  One woman googled that her and her children let the cocoons actually become wasps and then had a "wasp release."  Yeah, we weren't going to take it that far!!!  It still was a pretty cool discovery and a good learning experience with the kids.
On a less gross note, this moth found us while we were camping in July.  He would literally not leave us alone!  He landed on my hand and I had to shake him off!  He would have sat there all day!  
This is my niece Annika (sportin' the cool shades) and hangin' with the moth : )  Waaaaaay less gross than the horn worm!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Clafouti, huh?

I am really into the newest Food Network shows, Aarti Party being one of them.  I have made a lot of her recipes.  So on girls weekend, Lauren and I watched the show Saturday morning and Lauren really wanted to make the recipe she featured, blackberry-ginger-clafouti.  What the heck is a clafouti?  It is a baked French dessert arranged in a buttered dish (see Lauren doing that first step above!) and covered in a flan-like mixture.  It can be served warm or room temp with whipped cream and powdered sugar.
Since I don't bake (but Lauren loves to!  I leave this to task of baking with Lauren to my BF Bebe) I agreed to this recipe because it is really simple and you can mix it all together in the blender.  I didn't even have to haul out the 25 pound mixer!  Simply put:  eggs, heavy cream, milk, ginger, sugar!!!
Lauren grates in the fresh ginger!
Next she arranged plum slices in the buttered dish. (I couldn't find fresh berries at the store we were at and I didn't feel like going to my normal market where they have a plethora of fresh berries!)  These plums were so ripe and delicious!  You can use any fruit you desire.  It won't effect the recipe.
Next, Lauren pours the mixture over the plums.
The blender creates a nice frothy mixture, which is what you want!
Baking time!  (Lauren looks so enthused!)
The finished plum clafouti!  Ready for powdered sugar and whipped cream and/or ice cream!  
Yep, and here is Evan again.  Naked in the kitchen yet again!!!  The kid strips off his clothes constantly!  He had to get in the pic with Sissy even though he did nothing to help with her recipe!!!