Sunday, June 30, 2013

Kitchen gadgets

My husband celebrated his birthday this month.  I always struggle with finding something creative for his gift.  This year, I found the perfect gift - a Zoku slush and shake maker.  We already have the quick pop maker and really like it.  The slush and shake maker works in a similar way - you freeze the cup, pour in the liquid, stir it every 60 seconds, and in around seven minutes, you have a slushie or a shake.  Magic!

I am usually really skeptical about kitchen gadgets.  I love them and can easily be talked into buying them. Then, I have buyer's remorse when I feel guilty for having something we don't use and begin to think that the item junks up our kitchen and crowds our cupboards.

Our good experience with the other Zoku product made me think we had a winner.  I was so excited to have an idea I knew he would love.  It was all was going well until I placed the order and found out that they were on back order and would not arrive in time for his birthday.  When they finally did ship, we had only one in the box, though the packing slip said there were two included.  Geez. I can't win.

We do have one Zoku with a permanent space in our freezer - the second on the way.  My husband likes it - birthday gift success.  He is already talking about all the different variations of slushie he wants to try.


Saturday, June 29, 2013

Author crush

I am currently experiencing a mad author crush on Shauna Niequist.  After reading her book, Bread & Wine: A love letter to life around the table with recipes, I have proceeded to follow her on every available social media option, put her blog on my blog roll, and try some of the recipes in her book.

Her writing spoke to me in so many ways.  Her stories of friends, family, love, loss, disappointment, food, entertaining, health, running, Chicago, and marriage were in line with where I am in my life right now at this very moment.  Her style is really accessible - both in writing and living.  I love reading work that is lovely and filled with beautiful words and at the same time is straight forward, with no pretense or effort to try to be too fancy.  Her writing is smart and honest.  I love her.  I want to be her friend.  Yeah, I know, I am crushing hard.

I have made her breakfast quinoa and have a number of others on my list for this weekend - gaia cookies, Nigella's flourless chocolate brownies, mini mac and cheese, breakfast cookies, and more.  Ok, maybe I won't make all of these this weekend, but I may get to one or two.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Old Glory

My husband started making things this winter.  He was stuck in the house because of an illness and he started asking me for ideas - projects that he could make, something that he could do to keep busy and pass time while he recovered.  I turned to my Pinterest boards and suggested a few items that he could try.

Fast forward a few months and he has made over two hundred projects!

One of my favorites is this take on the American flag. 

Last night, it looked so pretty in the front yard.  He tells me that he is letting it "weather."  I think it looks really festive with July 4th just around the corner.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

After the storm

 We had a wonderful thunderstorm tonight - amazing lightening, rumbling thunder, and a lot of rain.  We had a few pieces of hail, but nothing too severe and no wind.

After the rain stopped, we were amazed at how light it was outside, though it was nearly 9 p.m.  We decided to get a better look by venturing out.

The entire yard was washed in this amazing light.  I did nothing to edit these photos, just tried to capture what we were seeing.  Unfortunately, my photography skills are inadequate to get great photos, but you get the idea.  Coupled with the sunset, the sky made for a really pretty backdrop.
 Our backyard and the hill beyond looked so lovely.
Our wildflowers in the bed next to the driveway were especially striking in the light.  I enjoy seeing these flowers this time of year and appreciate that they are so hardy.  We get to appreciate their beauty without having to fuss over them - a must with our busy life.

So, tonight, we are thankful for the rain to keep our yard and garden growing, a beautiful thunderstorm that was powerful, but not damaging, and the lovely light to help us appreciate our little acre.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

New favorite dessert

My new favorite dessert is super simple and very, very good.  I found this recipe ages ago and saved it to Evernote, but didn't give it a try until this spring.  While cleaning out the freezer, I discovered that I had stocked up (read over bought) frozen cherries.  I also had six small ramekins that are hardly ever used and I feel guilty when I have things that should be used.

You might say that I felt guilty and wasteful and thought I would feel better if I baked something.  I think that is a sign I need therapy.

Here are all the ways I changed in the recipe:
  • I used frozen cherries instead of fresh.  The desserts were still delicious and I save all of the time of pitting cherries.
  • I have six relatively small ramekins and used all six and just divided everything accordingly.
My secret wish is that my brother and sister-in-law let me host their wedding reception and they let me make this for the dessert.  Forget the wedding cake!  I want to make hundreds of these in jelly jars - baked just perfectly.  I would also talk my mom and husband into helping me scoop ice cream on top of each just before they were served.  This might also be a sign that I need therapy.

I am sorry that I don't know where I found this recipe, so I don't know how to credit it.

Fresh Cherry Crisp 
makes 4 individual servings

2 cups pitted sour cherries
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup butter, melted

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Spray four ramekins with non-stick cooking spray.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix the cherries with 2 T flour and white sugar.
  4. Evenly distribute the cherry mixture into four ramekins.
  5. Combine the oats, 1/2 cup flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and melted butter together. Crumble evenly over the cherry mixture.
  6. Bake for 30-35 minutes.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

North American on Discovery

We are loving the seven part series from The Discovery Channel, North America.  We started watching the first episode a few weeks ago and I found myself cheering out loud for the little mountain goat crossing the river.  Later, I was yelling at the narrator Tom Selleck, when some poor animal was falling prey to another.

If you want to be amazed by the animals and geography of our continent, you have to try to watch this series.

Plus, take a listen to the theme song by Bon Jovi (Army of One).

Friday, June 7, 2013

Progress on lifetime goals lists

 My mom had a stop on her lifetime goals list - Hugo, Oklahoma.

A friend had told her about this unusual little community that has a couple of claims to fame.  Famous rodeo cowboys are laid to rest in the Mount Olivet Cemetery, including Lane Frost.  The community is also home to several circuses that choose to winter there.  Thus, the cemetery has a number of individuals who performed in the circus laid to rest in a section called the
Showmen's Rest.

On our drive home, we took a detour and stopped in Hugo and found it to be very quiet since it was Sunday.  Like many small towns, it looked to be trying to keep a downtown alive. We stopped at the vistor center to pick up a map and then we made our way to the cemetery.
 We visited Lane Frost's grave and that of his mentor, Freckles Brown.
 The headstones in the Showmen's Rest were really amazing - intricate and personal.
 The images on the headstones were an amazing tribute to the life and career of the entertainers - trick riders, elephant trainers, strong men, and every other personality you could imagine as part of a circus.
I loved some of the sayings like, "I would rather be in California."  I also loved another stone that proclaimed that the person buried there "had more friends than Santa Claus."

This was a really unusual lifetime goal list item, but we were happy to help mom accomplish this goal.  It was truly an interesting side trip.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A perfect night for a run

We went for a run tonight and it was absolutely perfect.  The weather was beautiful - not too hot, not too windy.  The sky was a pristine blue with puffy white clouds.  The scenery was beautiful - classic Kansas farm ground and pasture land on all sides of our gravel road.  The icing on the cake was meeting a really neat couple who were driving by when we stopped at our turn around.

A side note:  You should know a few things about our run.

We took off on a three and a half mile run.  At about the half mile point, I asked my husband if he had gotten a run in earlier in the day.  He said he had and I asked how far.  He responded that he had run to Westmoreland and back earlier in the day - six miles!

I have always told people that he is a superhero.  The superhero council convened and told him that he needed to marry a mere mortal to diversify the gene pool and he picked me.  Who else runs almost nine miles a day?

Further evidence...we ran a little further and I said how glad I was that my knees weren't hurting tonight.  He responded by saying it was the opposite for him, as his knees were really hurting.  He thought it might be from the strength training he did the night before and the 2,000 jump ropes he completed.  Geez.  I don't stand a chance of keeping up.

Along the run, he did something that I love and tease him about all the time.  I call it lies cross country coaches tell.  He will often tell me positive, encouraging things that aren't quite true.  He will tell me that it is the last hill or that we don't have that much further to run or that we are almost finished with the run.  He is a cross country coach and I hear him yell these things at his runners and we all know they aren't quite true.

This was the perfect run.  And, it just got better.

At the T in the road, we planned to stop and turn around.  My husband asked if we wanted to walk to the south for a little ways, but I told him I just wanted a quick rest and then to run back to the house.

We saw a minivan approach and instead of taking the turn, they slowed and drove towards us.  We got a little nervous since we were in the middle of nowhere and did not recognize the vehicle.  We sometimes see some characters driving around in our area.  We have some stories.

The van approached and we saw an older couple inside.  The lady yelled at us and asked us if we were lost.  My husband responded by saying that we weren't and he asked if they were lost.  The lady said that she thought we were someone else and they said that they had land a little further north and west of us.  We explained that we lived down the road in the old Jenkins school.  She lit up and told us that she attended school there in the 1940's and she had always wanted a tour since it had been remodeled.  We offered our phone number and told her to call us the next time they were in the area and we would show them our place.

She told us a great story.  She hated the high windows in the school because if you need to trace anything, you put the paper up to the window and because the windows were so high, you had to stand on a school desk to reach the window.

We told her that we had photos of some of the classes from the 1940's that were a gift from another neighbor.  She told us that she wore her hair in pigtails and would have been about 10 to 11 years old.  We decided that if she contacts us for the tour, we would have her sign the back of the frame with the photos of the school and students with her name and the year she attended.

The couple told us that they met on a blind date.  My husband told them that we met on a blind date, too.  They laughed.  The guy asked my husband if he was drunk and when he learned he wasn't, the guy laughed and said that he was when he met his wife!  All laughed together and wondered if being drunk or not impacted their decision to go on another date.

I loved that when we asked for some paper and pen to pass along our number, they used an old calendar.  Have you seen those adhesive calendars that are advertising for local businesses with the pull off calendars?  She pulled off a page and said she thought she would use it because it was from December 2012.  This reminded me so much of my grandparents.  They always had those calendars stuck to their dashboards.

We really hope that they call us and we get to visit with them again.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Branded Burger Co. - Midlothian, Texas

 After our adventure race in Dallas, we ventured out to some little towns in search of some unique shopping and good food. We followed the recommendation of the friendly hotel front desk staffer who told us about a little town that led to a recommendation by someone at a small boutique that led to another little town and then to this restaurant - Branded Burger Co. in Midlothian, Texas.

There were so many things I loved about this place.
 They have an open kitchen and I really, really like places with open kitchens because I find food and creating delicious food really fascinating.  We actually ate a late lunch and the place was still crowded and the line was consistently busy cranking out tons of food.  We got to watch them press potatoes into french fries and saw their secret for getting the cheese melted just right on the burgers.
 I love soda made with cane sugar and this Boylan black cherry soda was the prefect compliment to my burger.
The cheeseburger was delicious.  I love all of the little details that make a good burger - shredded lettuce, a fresh bun, a burger cooked through, but not too done, melty cheese, and it has to hold together well.  I love that the bun is "branded."

We also tried the fried pies - a local treat and the perfect way to round out this meal.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

My mom's goal list

My mom has a really impressive lifetime goals list.  She started talking about completing an adventure race about the time my husband started competing in them on a regular basis.  This was a goal that had me worried.  My experience with adventure races was only that of a spectator, but I thought them to be a little uncontrolled, crowded, and very challenging physically.

Last winter, I received an e-mail about the Pretty Muddy in Dallas and thought that if my mom and I were to participate in an adventure race, this might be a good option.

It is a 5K, women-only mud run.  They don't time the participants and no one "wins."  I asked mom if she was interested and she thought it would be fun.  Dallas was the first location and we signed up for the first flight.  (Another lesson learned from being my husband's support team.  Sign up for the first wave.)

I secured our race day uniform - matching t-shirts that said, Everyone loves a Kansas Girl.
The obstacles ranged from mild and really fun to...
muddy and no so much fun.  This was our last obstacle right at the finish line - a pool of mud and we had to crawl under snow fence.
This was my favorite obstacle near the end of the race.  We had to run through this giant pen of beach balls.
We made it!  We finished the race a little faster than expected.  We were happy that the cloud cover kept the temperatures cool and that my husband agreed to travel along with us and serve as the paparazzi and trip comedian.