Thursday, September 30, 2010

Book Day!

Today was Scholastic Book Order arrival day at Clark's Preschool.  I used to love book order time when I was in school.  So we were very excited to receive our order today!  Clark couldn't wait to read all the books when we arrived home.  Grant was pretty excited to read new books too!

I am keeping tonight short and unfortunately no Test Kitchen Thursday tonight - although you did get two last week :).  Writing from Iowa City tonight awaiting surgery at UI hospitals tomorrow morning (no big deal - we hope).  We were told today that I would have to be there by 6:45 am (with a 2+ hour drive we decided no way we'd do it in the morning).  Luckily we worked out with family and babysitters to have the boys well taken care of - thank you guys again so much!

I really want to show photos of the tutu dress I made for my niece Callie but I won't ruin the surprise of her mom being able to see it first (it will be delivered to their house with the boys tomorrow morning).  Hopefully this weekend I can show off the dress and maybe get some photos with it on its new owner!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"Gramma" Crackers

Snack time today consisted of Hot Cocoa and Graham Crackers (or as Clark refers to them - gramma crackers).  It's really cute.  No matter how many times I say graham - he says yeah - gramma crackers.  Not sure what brought on the hot cocoa but it was Clark's choice today so we made some up.

Lots of playing in the sandbox outside again today.  This time I took photos!
Clark helping Grant into sandbox!

Purple wanted in on the sandbox action.

We have been working on cleaning up the house this week.  Today all of Grant's 12 month clothes went to the basement.  As did all of his shoes that are smaller than size 6.  The bibs and burp clothes are all packed away; as are the teethers and baby toys.  I guess this makes Grant an official toddler now.  sniff, sniff - he's not a baby anymore.  Moving on - we put all of the FP Little People playthings and vehicles in his room and made room for his blocks to store in his room.

With the calendar quickly turning to October the end of this week my mind also turns to wreath making efforts.  This means cleaning out the garage - and clearing out dad's trailer so he can take it home only to return with lots of greens.  So, I brought in these two bags of old clothes that have been doing nothing but sitting around for years.  (yes, I think they moved with us from the last house).

These are old clothes that have holes or stains or special meaning (or a combination of these things).  Anyway many aren't good enough for Good Will and others hold sentimental meaning or were made with such pretty fabric I didn't want to part with it.  So, I started cutting it all up today!  Cut what I could into large chunks of fabrics and cut some into little squares.  Saved buttons and zippers, etc.   The scraps have been bagged up because I even have a great idea for using those!

These bags also contain lots of our FFA t-shirt collection that we have been collecting for over 20 years now.  I started cutting those too.  Large squares of the graphics to make into quilts (yes, plural).  But there was so much left over.

On a completely unrelated note as I was reading through my blog reader today I came across this post.  I had never considered making boys underwear (very bottom photo in the second photo set).  I decided to try it.  After a few sewing blunders tonight I think I almost have it - but before showing my finished product I need to pick up some elastic tomorrow.  Ha - they are so soft (and I save a mint in buying underwear).  Now my left over t-shirt material has a purpose.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Helpful Little Man

It was so beautiful outside today.  After lunch the boys and I went out to play.  The boys played in the sandbox while I harvested pumpkins (lots of pumpkins)!  We also searched for where the mama cat moved the little kittens but no luck yet.

After nap Clark wanted to go outside.  I needed to get supper ready but told him he could go to the sandbox.  This of course led to a Grant meltdown who wanted to go outside too.  I told Clark he could take Grant with but needed to watch out for him.  The twp trotted out the door while I watched from the kitchen window.  Clark made it to the sandbox with Grant toddling through the yard.  Once Grant made it to the sandbox I saw Clark help lift him up and in with him (awww)!  I hurriedly got the rest of the chili put together and set to simmer checking out the window frequently.  As I was putting on my shoes to go out too I saw Clark get out of the sandbox.  He then turned, held his arms out and helped lift Grant down to the ground (it was sooo sweet).  Then they were off exploring.  Time for mommy to head out.  We played some more - have to enjoy the weather while we have it!

Tonight I worked on caulking the basement windows so water doesn't leak in from the window wells.  I am almost to the point of painting the floor - whoo hoo!  Once the floor is painted everything can move back into position.

Sorry - no pictures today.  Too busy playing outside!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

New Orchard!

Ahh - today we planted our fruit trees to begin our new orchard!  For anyone new joining the blog - our apple and cherry trees were wiped out during various storms this year.

Our cherry tree is trying to make a come back - new growth and new leaves.
Mom and dad's birthday gift to me were some fruit trees.  They were delivered last week but between rain and busy schedules we hadn't had a chance to plant them.  Today turned out being lovely and we decided they needed to go in the ground this afternoon.  Five apple trees and three cherry trees.

Clark looking at worms in the hole.
Daddy teaching Clark how to prep the tree for planting.

Helping daddy plant the tree.

Grant helped after nap time.
Purple kitty (aka - Oscar) was helping too!

Purple giving Clark some love!

How can you not love this picture? 
Next year we'll have to add pear trees!

Grant's 1st Lawn Tractor ride.  Note big brother "mowing" out back!

Farmer's Market

After we all rolled out of our hotel beds on Saturday we headed out to the Des Moines Downtown Farmer's Market.  Of course, just as we arrived it started to rain.  Silly me - forgot the umbrella.  We spent a lot of time under Click! Photography's tent - thankful for good friends with a tent :)!  Felt bad for all of the vendors though - such a rainy, cold day didn't bode well for good sales.  We did what we could.  Alan and I each had a Bavarian Cream Pillow Puff (YUMMY)!  We bought sweet rolls and Clark's favorite - kettle corn - to bring home to share with Clark and Grant.  Also picked up some Gouda cheese - yum!  And we tried an omelet burrito.  There was a brief break in the weather so we did get to see most of the market and explore various vendors.

After the Farmer's Market we took Beth and Jamie to the mall to wait for Jamie's parents as they were on the way to the East Coast for the big Expo.  Alan was great and took me to a Stitch/Needlework store I had wanted to visit.  Bought a couple little patterns, some thread for a project that can only be found in specialty stores and a piece of aida cloth.

When we returned home we found our babysitter all in one piece.  She did a great job with the boys!  Grandpa came by to visit before he and Alan headed out for the ISU vs UNI game.  Luckily the rain stopped but brrrr.

Clark, Grant and I had an indoor picnic and watched our new Tinker Bell movie.  We had great fun!  (and yes, boys can watch Tinker Bell - she's a Tinker Fairy and they have her engineering and figuring out all kind of mechanical things).

Ahh - the end to a wonderful birthday weekend!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Happy Birthday Day!

As Clark would say - Friday was my happy birthday day!

It was a lovely day - weather was gorgeous and the boys were happy!  In the morning Clark gave me the boys' gift.  It was a fabulous jelly roll from the quilt store.  Such pretty colors.  I find it incredibly amazing that my husband not only went to a quilt store and asked for a jelly roll (he gave me the weirdest face when I said that was one thing that would be fun but I wouldn't necessarily buy for myself) but he took the boys with him and had them pick the perfect one for me!

After we ate breakfast the boys and I went to town to run some errands.  After Target I asked if they wanted to go back to the fabric store.  Clark excitedly said yes so I figured we'd try.  I asked him to pick the orange and black fabrics to put together his Halloween "I Spy" quilt.  He had so much fun telling me which fabrics he would prefer to have.  So we picked out four and he loved watching it be cut.  We also found a couple more fat quarters I can cut into squares and use in the I Spy.

Then we needed a potty break so we went across the street to the Consignment Store and used the children's potty.  Clark picked out a shirt, a pair of shoes and a couple pair of pants.  When I said Clark picked them I mean it.  Grant found a pair of shoes he liked too.  Grant is a going to be a shoe horse.  He LOVES shoes.  He's not even two and he has all kinds of shoes and he likes to wear them all.  He and Aunt Em will hit if off well in this department.

After purchasing our outfits we loaded the car.  Since it was my birthday and lunch time I asked if they wanted to eat downtown.  This seemed agreeable to everyone so we tried out the new cupcake store - Yummy's Cupcake Emporium.  It was great- they sell Jeff's Pizza!  So for $4.99 each we got the pizza special which included a slice of pizza, a cupcake and a drink.  Can't beat that - and such a cute store to boot.  We tried out the chocolate cupcakes - yummy!  After lunch we visited the Pumpkin Patch (local toy/children's store).  They have a wooden train set up that both boys enjoyed playing with while mommy looked around the store.  Neither one wanted to leave.  Luckily the tantrum wasn't too long lived.

Off to the grocery store to get some food for the babysitter to quickly fix.  Grant fell asleep in the car.  He didn't wake up when I moved him to the shopping cart.  I should have had the camera with.  He was holding onto the cart - asleep.  He did wake up eventually - poor little thing.  He still took a nap when we got home - thankfully.

It was a great mail day too -- my prize for the Grand Champion Banana Bread arrived!  Alan jokes that I should use it for a year's worth of bananas - ha, ha!  It's really a great prize - a $75.00 American Express card to use anywhere.  Perfect for a birthday weekend out!

Our babysitter came to watch the boys as friends of mine picked me up to go to Des Moines (and meet Alan).  They were celebrating an anniversary so we all went out to supper and then both of us had rooms booked at the Marriott.  So much fun!  We decided to eat at the new (at least new to us) BBQ place -- Smoky D's.  What we didn't know was that the owner had just won TLC's Pit Master contest and the local news had done a story on them that evening.  Even though we pulled in a little after 7 PM - it was PACKED!  We decided to wait in line anyway.  It was worth it.  They ran out of ribs so we'll have to go back another time to try those but everything we ordered was extremely good!  If you love BBQ you've got to try it!  I also loved the fact that everyone was having a good time and being so neighborly.  We chatted with strangers and made new friends.  Tables were hard to come by so strangers shared table space with each other and had a great time together.  Sometimes I just really love Iowa and Iowans.

I also have to share that my friends gave me a beautiful birthday gift (thank you Beth and Jamie)!  Beth knows me so well.  She has searched long and hard to find me a hand juicer made of milk glass.  She found one at the Clay County Fair.  It's so lovely.  But the best part was spending time with you both!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Birthday Special Recipe Edition - Pumpkin Bars

Tomorrow is my birthday so I thought I would do something special for all of you!  When I used to work in offices or warehouses or well anywhere other than home - the birthday treats I would take were my pumpkin bars.  I've never found a pumpkin bar recipe to touch these (no, not trying to be cocky - just honest).  There have been times I haven't even eaten a bar I made because the pan has been emptied before I had a chance.

So, for my birthday I decided to whip up some of these fabulous bars (they are super easy)!  OK - moment of truth these are only 2nd best to my ultimate favorite birthday recipe - but I can't pull off number 1.  That would be my mom's chocolate fudge cake with glorious fudge frosting!  Oh man - it is the best cake ever!  Mom rocks!

Back to Pumpkin Bars:

Pan: 1 - 15 x 18 x 1" sheet pan
This recipe originally came out of a small recipe book grandma gave me when Alan and I were first married.  The original recipe was by Marsha Gordon in -A Collection; Favorite Recipes of the Cerro Gordo Medical Auxiliary.  I have made modifications to the recipe to make it more my own but credit is owed to Ms. Gordon for an excellent recipe!

4       eggs
2 C   sugar
1 C   canola oil
16 oz pumpkin [1 (15.5 oz) can if using canned pumpkin - be sure it's canned pumpkin not pumpkin pie]
2 C   flour
1/2 t  salt
1 t     baking soda
2 t     baking powder
2 t     cinnamon
1/2 t   nutmeg (optional) - if you like your pumpkin bars with more spice add the nutmeg and cloves
1/4 t  cloves (optional)

Frosting Ingredients:
8 oz pkg  cream cheese
1/2 C       butter
1 t            vanilla
2 C          sifted powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Prepare pan - I spray with baking spray (with flour added in). In large metal or glass bowl; beat eggs gently.  Add sugar, oil and pumpkin.  Mix well and set aside.  In medium bowl sift together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, & cinnamon.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix well. Pour into prepared pan.  Bake in oven for 20 - 30 minutes (until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean).

Allow pan to cool on wire rack.  Meanwhile - prepare frosting.  Allow cream cheese and butter to come to room temperature.  Beat cream cheese and butter together until smooth.  Add 1 cup sifted sugar and vanilla - beat until smooth.  Add 2nd cup of sifted sugar and beat until smooth.  It should be a nice creamy frosting.

Once bars are cool spread frosting on bars.  These are also cute decorated with little candy or frosting pumpkins.  If I'm really in the mood for being fancy I have piped pumpkins and swirling vines all across the top.

Here are some photos of my boys enjoying their treat at supper time!  They both helped mix and add ingredients so they get credit for baking today too!

 Love the photos of Grant shoveling the bar in the mouth.  The frosting eye brow only adds to the humor!


Please note: I happily share my recipes with you but please use them only for your own personal use.  It is not just myself but often my family that has worked (for sometimes years) on these recipes and at the very least we would like credit for our creations.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Thursday Test Kitchen - Grandma Buns

This Thursday (today) I decided to go with Grandma Buns.  Why are they called Grandma Buns - because they were my Grandma Clark's recipe.  They are the roll that ALL members of her family desire.  She served them for special occasions and yet also for just everyday.  What I loved is that she experimented with her recipe all the time - even though she made them for what seemed to me - forever!  She tried different techniques, different flours, other ingredients, etc.  However, the traditional recipe is still the very best.  I will never forget that at her funeral our talented neighbor Maggie took the recipe and made Grandma Buns for us all.

I always admired that grandma enjoyed experimenting.  I suppose that is where I get some of my experimental baking from (grandma and my mom).  My husband looked at me questioningly when I said I was going to do Grandma Buns for my test kitchen day.  Shouldn't you try a new recipe for something called test kitchen?  My response - yes!

So here is my experiment.  Trying the buns in the bread machine and experimenting with King Arthur Flour's White Whole Wheat Flour (rather than All Purpose Flour).

Here is my modified recipe:

Yield: 36 (2 - 15 x 18 sheet pans)

½ C     sugar
¼ C     butter
¼ C     lard
2 C      hot water
2          eggs
2 t        salt
~6-7 C   King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour
4 t        instant yeast

Place sugar, butter, lard and salt in bread machine bowl (note: you need a LARGE bread machine to handle this amount - otherwise cut recipe in half).  Add hot water (put water in microwave on high for 1 minute to heat).  Let butter and lard soak and warm up.  

Make sure mixture is only nice and warm before adding any flour.  Add eggs and salt.  Add flour (start with 6 Cups).  Make small well in flour and add yeast.  Make sure when using a bread machine pan to NOT let the salt touch the yeast!  Turn on dough setting.  Let machine start mixing.  

With this much flour I usually need to help it stir somewhat.  If the dough is sticky add more flour as needed.    When bread machine cycle is finished gently knock down and place on greased counter.  Cover and let sit an additional 10 minutes.  Roll into buns.  The easiest way to make even rolls - weigh the entire piece of dough, divide by 36 to determine ounces per roll.  I usually weigh a couple of pieces to the proper ounce and then eyeball from there - or you can weigh each one.

My rolls were not exactly perfect this time
around - Clark decided he was old
enough to practice rolling buns!
Place buns in 2 –15” x 18” x 1” pans  (you can use just about any pan but grandma usually did them on a cookie sheet with a 1" edge).  Let rise again until puffy and touching (~30 - 40 minutes).  You can at this point also add an egg wash (1 egg to 1 T water mixed slightly and brushed gently over the top).

Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes.

These came out wonderful.  You can't even tell that I used whole wheat flour (l really like the white whole wheat flour).  These rolls freeze exceptionally well - that is if any last long enough to freeze!


Please note: I happily share my recipes with you but please use them only for your own personal use.  It is not just myself but often my family that has worked (for sometimes years) on these recipes and at the very least we would like credit for our creations.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rain, Rain - More Rain

Today was a day that screamed hot cocoa and stew and all things comfort.  We did manage stew; never got around to the hot cocoa - although there is still a little day left, hmm.

Clark went to preschool again today.  We all went in daddy's car since mine was still in the shop.  After running through the rain - narrowly missing the hail we got Clark to church for school safe and somewhat dry (umbrellas just didn't help in the downpour).  Then ran a couple errands.  Finally, my car was all done - picked it up and sent daddy on his way to work.  Grant and I headed to the library.  We picked out a couple movies (Snow White!) and some fall activity/craft books.  Grant also really likes music so thought I would try checking out some toddler CD's to see if he likes it - he ended up bopping out in the car.  Answer is yes he likes the music.

Caught up on some work and other items this afternoon.

After supper Grant kept bringing me various shoes.  When I told him to put them back he started to cry.  I realized he wanted to go out and see the kittens.  When asked if he wanted to see kitties he screeched and ran for the door.  Again, answer was yes.  Clark also wanted to go out.  Since I figured we would only be out a short time I just put shoes on Clark (no pants).  When Alan pulled in two little boys went screeching down the sidewalk yelling - daddy!  Then Clark decided to "mow."  These photos will so come back to haunt him some day.  Underwear (on backwards since he is learning to do it himself) and shoes out mowing (hey, at least he had shoes on).

I have a picture for family only of his backside with bottom sticking out.  Can't wait to show that to his fiancĂ©e some day!  This photo is a bit more PG.

I did find a blog I thought was interesting the other day - then today she posted her reason for blogging.  Since I could relate to some of the reasons she blogs I decided to follow her.  If you want to see the blog go here.  The photo of her son asleep on the potty (same blogger, different post) spoke to me on some odd level as well.

Off to finish my niece's tutu and maybe a little pumpkin stitching yet tonight while watching some TV.

Monday, September 20, 2010


Not sure what to call today's post.  Could have called it miscellaneous I guess.  Not feeling real well today - not sure what I caught but it's not real fun.  The car is under the weather too and spending the night at the garage.  Something with the water pump.  At least it wasn't the transmission like they first thought.  That saved us $300 on the total estimate.

Alright - enough with the negative.  When I checked the mail from the weekend a package from New York was waiting for me!  My partner in the Stash Manicure Brown Bag Quilt contest had sent me her fabrics.  You can see them below:

Yikes - what a challenge!

Sunday I spent the evening looking through my own fabric stash to see what I could do.  Here are some fabrics I dug out:

Look at that - they all have some partners.  Now to figure out the pattern I want to use.  I think I have a few ideas.  However, I have a few other projects already on the burners so this one will have to wait.

Projects like Clark's "I Spy" Halloween quilt.  Everything is ironed and ready to cut.

  And projects like this one:

Look at those pretty colors.  Yes - I started work on Callie's tutu.  All the fabric is cut.

Now to make the skirt.

Some photos of the boys just before leaving to go pick out mommy's birthday gift with daddy.  They were excited!  We'll see how good Clark is at keeping a secret!  I know it was a fabric store since Clark described looking at other fabrics he'd like to have - fabric with wrenches and bulldozers, etc.  Ah - my son found fabric he likes!

In other news - also worked on the basement some more and when I couldn't take that anymore I sat and worked on one of my pumpkins for the Great Pumpkin Challenge (I started one in the car on the way to and from West Union - just finishing it up).

Also, made it to day 4 in my 30 Day wii Challenge.  Ouch - my legs! Go mom - you keep me motivated - if you can do it so can I!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Dairy, Playground, and Train Day

First thing in the morning we went to see the dairy cattle.  Grant is a lover of animals.  He simply wants to be close to all animals.  If we would have let him down in the barns he would have been sitting on a cow.

After visiting the dairy cattle we dropped daddy back off at the Dairy Foods Event and we went to the playground.  They do have a very nice, new playground.  And the boys played,

and played, 

and played.

Grant LOVED to swing!

Check out this drinking fountain - how awesome is that!

We also went on a walk around the little lake that was at the playground park.

This is what happens when Clark gets to use the camera (actually not a bad shot).

On our way home we stopped in Independence, IA.  They have remodeled the old rail depot as a tourist/visitor information center.  It was really beautiful.  Plus, the boys were able to see the train up close.

Good Times!