Friday, October 23, 2009

The Final Tally...

Ok, I've just completed inventory and here are the numbers for this year of growing, picking, preserving.

(8) 1/2 pints of jam (strawberry-rhubarb)
8 pints of jam (strawberry and raspberry)
4 quarts of beans
2 quarts or rhubarb
1 quart of peppers

5 pints of jam (strawberry and raspberry)
15 pints grape jelly
40 quarts of green beans
14 quarts of tomatoes
6 pints of relish
9 pints of salsa
11 quarts of pickles
3 pints of pickles
3 quarts of rhubarb
10 pints of carrots
2 1/2 pints of apple butter

All the beans came from my little garden. The peppers and tomatoes for the salsa came from my garden, as well as the carrots and quart of frozen peppers. The canned tomatoes came from a friend's father-in-law, the rhubarb from a friend's garden, cucumbers came from a couple friends as well. The dill for the pickles was from my garden, though. The jams and jellies were from produce I picked at farms, and the apples for apple butter I purchased at a fruit farm. Next year I'd like to finally do applesauce. This year I felt too burned out. I am very happy with the results, though. Next year I think I will skip the green onions and grow regular onions. I'd also like to try to find room for potatoes. I don't think I will bother with peas next year, but I'm thinking of doing a few more root veggies. Maybe a few beets and turnips.

So happy harvest to all. Time to close down the garden until next year!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pumpkin Patch

Last Thursday I got to go on a field trip with Devon. The weather did not quite cooperate, but we had a great time anyway. It was something like 39 degrees and raining, but we dressed for the weather in warm winter coats, hats, and gloves. We had seven parent chaperones per class, so I only had Devon and one other boy, Alex, in my group.

The first thing our class did when we arrived, was go in the barn to watch a video about pumpkins. It takes a hundred days to grow a pumpkin, apparently. Devon didn't find this information too thrilling and a fell asleep. Not really, but for some reason he pretended he was asleep when I took the picture.

Next, our class got to hang out in the play yard while we waited for our turn in the corn maze.

The corn maze was quite an adventure. The paths are dirt. In the rain they were mud. Very sticky Wisconsin clay mud. Kids were slipping, sliding, falling in it. It would build up on the bottoms and sides of our boots, big, sticky, lumps.

After cleaning up the kids as best we could with baby wipes, we played around a little longer, waiting for our turn on the wagon ride out to where the pumpkins were.

We enjoyed the wagon ride with the friendly farmer, though the seats were wet. The benches were covered with plastic garbage bags, so I just shook off the excess water, wiped it with my glove, and we were good to go. I was amazed at how much a lot of the other folks were complaining. But then I realized, back to my earlier comment, that Devon and I had really dressed appropriately and that makes a world of difference. It's a lot easier to have fun that way!

Devon found the perfect pumpkin.

Here I am with my two little charges. It was so much fun, even though the weather was less than desirable. I love having the opportunity to spend time with one of my kids that way. It's fun to see them in their home away from home environment. And it's fun to be able to give them all my attention. (Yes, I paid attention to Alex. Even paying attention to your child's friend can be giving your child attention.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Project I've Been Working On...

I wish you could really get an idea of how nasty these were from the before pictures. They were chippy, mildewy, stinky, and stained. Perhaps if you click on the picture of the chair you'll get a better idea. But I loved the lines and WOW! these things are solid! I scrubbed, sanded, painted, and recovered them. I tried to go with a fun, colorful look since these are for playing games in the basement. I bought the set for $40 on Craigs List. All the paint I already owned. The vinyl for the seats cost about $2.50. So the big expense was the slipcover to cut up for the fabric seat covers. I bought a couch slipcover (the same as the one on my couch) and have been using it for different projects in the basement.

I actually sanded off the entire tabletop finish and restained in a darker, red mahogany.

My favorite detail is the tie on the back.

And that $20 Craigs List dresser in the background? Watch for a makeover of that as well.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Big Race...

Last weekend my parents stopped here on their way back to NY from Montana to babysit our kids while Lincoln and I headed north to run our first races. You may recall that I've been preparing for a 5K since July. Now, I know, most people could prepare for a half or full marathon in that amount of time, but for me, this was a huge step.
Lincoln got out of work early on Friday so we could drive the 6 hours north to Ashland, WI.
The funniest sign ever. We saw this in Hurley, WI at a restaurant:(Lincoln's favorite joke about the sign, Once you get married you just don't get ho-made meals anymore!)

Ashland is right on Lake Superior. We met up with the rest of our group at the cabin. Jo and Kevin Busby, Spencer and Michelle Prows, and Kym and Jeff Howell.

Our little cabin in the big woods, and the view of the lake:

After a night of restless sleep, we awoke at 5:45 to throw our clothes on and head out to the start line. We stepped outside into a winter wonderland. It had snowed in the night and it was still coming down.

The wind was blustery and cold and I wondered what on earth I was thinking. I don't even like to run! But I sure like to sleep in my cozy bed or read a good book by the fire. We drove the 20 minutes into town, parked, and then hopped on our buses to our start lines. Jeff and I were the only two from our group doing the 5K. By the time we arrived at our start line, it was light out and the snow had stopped. By the time we started our race the sun was trying to peek through. Standing at the start line, waiting the 1/2 hour for the race to start, reluctant to give up my coat, I continued to ask myself why. Once I got started, my legs felt like lead and within the first 1/4 mile I thought there was no way on earth I would be able to do my 3.1 miles. But, by the time I had finished one mile I wasn't quite so frozen anymore, and by the time I had completed the second mile I was determined to jog the whole thing or die trying. There were a few intense power-walkers who passed me, but I pushed through maintaining my pace and completed it in my usual time. I was worried that my pace was slower, but I guess not. Jeff was at the finish line to cheer me on, which I really appreciated since Lincoln was in the middle of his 10K. After I finished, Jeff headed to the marathon trail to find Kym and I waited for Lincoln's finish. It was so fun to see him come running in and finish up his first race.

We took a quick spectator break at this point, ran to get some breakfast and hot cocoa, then returned to the finish line to see the Busbys,

the Prowses,

and our friend Luly

complete the half-marathon. Then we took off to try to find Kym on the full-marathon trail. After waiting near a water station for an hour in the cold wind (it was now only sunny in short spurts), we finally got to see her and cheer her on.
Mile 21.6 She had just downed 3 Aleve in an attempt to dull the pain of her aching knees.

Then we raced to the next spectator spot to see her again. Jeff was at this point and he went down the trail to meet her and run a mile or so with her.

(A little aside, Jeff had been trying to locate Kym most of the day so he had seen many of the marathoners at various points on the trail. He was on a first-name basis with many of them by this point and was high-fiving people left and right. It was pretty cool.) We hurried to the finish line and witnessed Kym's triumphant completion of her first marathon.

The rest of the day everyone was plumb tuckered out. Some of us from running 26 miles, some of us from standing out in the freezing wind for 6 hours. We dragged ourselves out for a late dinner in the evening

and then crashed into bed immediately upon returning to the cabin.
Sunday morning we woke and got on the road right away, arriving home to Mom's boiled dinner and good company.
Did I mention that Saturday, the day of the race, was our 11th anniversary? What a fantastic way to spend our anniversary.
Thanks again, Mom and Dad, for watching the kids for us. We couldn't have done it without you!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Visit To Our Old Stomping Grounds...

Lincoln and I just returned from a quick trip to North Carolina. Thanks to wonderful friends and family, we were able to leave our kids in WI in good hands so we could have a few days to ourselves. Some of you may recall that Lincoln got us tickets to a U2 concert for my Mother's Day gift this year. Well, this was that trip.

We left Wednesday morning after delivering kids to school and babysitters. It was a bright, sunny, fall day- perfect for traveling. We drove all day through Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and on into North Carolina. It was strange and exciting to be on the road without kids. We were able to talk uninterrupted for 15 hours straight. We could stop at a restroom and be in and out in 3 minutes. There was no bickering, no complaining, no unscheduled bathroom stops, no buckling and unbuckling of car seats, no begging for drinks or snacks. Just me and my best friend on a road trip together.

We stopped in Asheville, NC, planning to get up in the morning and drive the Blue Ridge Parkway to Blowing Rock. After a delicious night of rest in a tasteful hotel, we got packed back up, grabbed breakfast at a diner, and got on the road in the amount of time it would have taken us to get everyone dressed if we had brought the kids along.

In hindsight, the scenic drive from Asheville was a bit long. Most of our morning was taken up with driving the parkway, limiting our time to hang out in Blowing Rock. The drive was beautiful, though. The morning started out chilly and cloudy, but within a few minutes of getting on the road, the clouds burned off and we were bathed in golden sunshine. We stopped to climb a short trail along the parkway and marveled at the beauty around us.

After a while on the Parkway, we decided it might be quicker to get on a bigger road to drive the rest of the way to Blowing Rock. I think it may have been true, but the road wasn't a whole lot better. Lincoln spent a solid hour and a half maneuvering our car through the switchback route through the mountains.

Just outside of Boone, NC, we made our first destination- the Mast General Store. This has always been one of our stops when we head to that area. This time was no exception. We bought a big old basket of candy from the candy barrels to bring home to the kids. We drove on into Blowing Rock and enjoyed a leisurely walk through the downtown shops. We drove out to the Blowing Rock and enjoyed the views.

Our descent from the mountains down to Charlotte was slow going, especially when we reached the interstate and city traffic. Softened by a couple of years of country living, we were not impressed with the gridlock and wondered how we had been able to stand living there. We reflected on how traffic adds so much stress-and time- to everyday activities that otherwise wouldn't be stressful at all.

We arrived that evening at my sister, Luella's house. She had a delicious roast dinner ready for us. We filled our bellies and relaxed for the evening. My brother Derek and his family came over to join us for the evening. We visited and hot-tubbed in the backyard. Losing the opportunity to hang out with my siblings like that on a regular basis is one of my biggest regrets about not living in NC any more.

Friday we drove around our old stomping grounds. We shopped as long as we wanted at a bookstore, ate at Firehouse subs (I've missed those subs), and even did a little car shopping. Mostly we just enjoyed driving around the area. By day #2 we were remembering that you get used to the traffic and it's not that bad, especially when you don't have to be on the interstate at rush hour.

A picture of our old house in NC

Friday evening we went out to dinner with our friends Joe and Anita. We had so much fun catching up and being silly. Oh how we miss them! We kept them up much too late, but we wanted to cram in as much time with them as we could.

Saturday morning we slept in again, then went to breakfast at Lue and Tom's favorite greasy spoon, Penny's Place. Breakfast was yummy, though I would pay for it later. We hit a few garage sales, then headed back to Lue's to load up the car and say our goodbyes.

We had a lovely stay at Luella's, though it was much too short. She has a beautiful home that is tastefully decorated. She put us up in a comfortable guest room with all of our needs met. That was nice, but what I miss is being with her and sharing our connection.

We drove 1/2 an hour north to Derek's house, arriving in time to join him for lunch. Stillman, my nephew, was just rising from a nap so the timing was perfect. We spent a couple hours visiting and playing with Stillman. What a cute little tank he is! He is a ball of energy in constant motion, running tipsy across the room, belly-flopping on the floor, rolling, twisting, hopping, leaping. He has gigantic dark eyes, making him look always intrigued and curious about the world around him. I dare say, however, that judging by the light behind his eyes, it's not just a look.

Sophia is due with their next baby, Zoe, who will arrive in just a few days. I'm so sad that our trip didn't coincide with her birth. Sophia looks fantastic, just a tiny little thing with a basketball under her dress. Like a fool, I didn't get a picture of them all together. I was a slacker with the camera this time, I'm afraid.

After a much too brief visit, we had to get on the road to Raleigh for our concert that evening. We arrived a little late to the concert, but the opening band was still playing. I'm actually glad we didn't arrive any earlier. U2 put on a fantastic show. It was so much fun. I seriously could have stood there another couple hours soaking it up. In fact, now I wish I could catch them again this tour...but I will just be grateful for the opportunity I got to see them at all.

Lincoln drove straight through the night to get us home at a decent hour on Sunday. I slept most of the way, though I did take a turn driving in the morning. Not much conversation took place on that end of the weekend, needless to say. Thanks again to everyone who helped us out with the kids and everyone who hosted and hung out with us in NC.