Archive | September 2013

Ransom is 3!

a quick recap of Ransom’s party with a few jaded pinterest asides

Kid birthday parties are one of those areas where you can really just go hog-wild on Pinterest, you know? Like that, hog-wild?  For whatever reason, the wonderful world of Pinterest is kind of getting on my last nerve lately.  I mean, I love it.  Its incredible.  But sometimes those little descriptions like “Pin now read later” just make me want to stab something.  Sorry, but true.  Its all just too much.  I mean really.  Its awesome.  But I feel like its not real life, and I feel like it puts pressure on us ladies to make everything picture perfect like a Martha Stewart magazine shoot.  Maybe its just me feeling that pressure, I don’t know.

I’m standing firm though.  Here is one birthday party recap from which you will pin nothing and that is just fine you know? Three year old boys, at least mine, couldn’t really care less about things like color coordination.

At first I thought we would at least have a theme.  But which one?  He LOVES so many different things right now.  Trucks?  Tractors?  Excavators?  Legos? Shaun the Sheep?  So then I asked him what kind of cake he wanted.  Without any hesitation he immediately came back with “RED AND GREEN“.

Oh perfect.  I’ll bust out the Christmas tree.

I asked him a few more times and he never did waiver, although one time I got “red, green, and pink”.  I did use Pinterest to get him to clarify exactly what he meant by “red and green”, and turns out he meant the cake should be red and the icing should be green.

YUM!

So, red and green it was. Maybe someday I’ll have a little girl who would love a fancy tea party or some other loveliness.  Heck, maybe I’ll throw my own tea party for grown ups and we’ll use quirky floral china and paper straws and wear little hats like Kate Middleton.  And then I’ll shamelessly pin all my own pictures with captions that say “This girl’s site is full of all the best party ideas.  Pin now read later!!!”

Until then, I am resolved to keep out of the Pinterest party planning section.  And the official theme for this gig therefore became: Whatever Ransom Wants.

So I found a pretty easy red velvet cake recipe and tinted the icing with an entire dropper full of green food coloring.  The cake turned out pretty well, although I kind of had to consciously ignore the color.  The green kind of made me expect mint.  And yet, it wasn’t mint.  But hey, at least the kid didn’t ask for “red and gray” right?

armadillo-cake-steel-magnolias

Anyways, in keeping with the “Do It Yourself, Kid” theme, I let him design the invitations with his watercolor paints.  I scanned the design in and threw some text on the top, and then printed them four-to-a-page at the UPS store for $3 total.  Can’t beat that.

invite

For the dinnerware, Ransom selected cups and plates with construction vehicles.  Then we picked out three inflatable kiddie pool toys from the clearance rack at TJMaxx to serve as a party activity.  I had to select the rest of the food myself because Ransom didn’t understand why food was needed beyond cake.  So I bought cheetos, made cheese dip, and ordered a stack of pizza.  The sub-theme was clearly “cheese”.

That was the beginning and the end of party planning for this affair.  You know what?  No one complained, especially not Ransom, and we all had a good time.  Actually, I was pretty spent by the end of the day and as you may have noticed, I did take the easiest possible route.  So, my heart goes out to all you Pinterest-party-people.  That must take a LOT of energy.

photo 1 Don’t let the face fool you, much fun was had by all.

photo 4I promise there were other kids at the party.

photo 2Birthday boy going for the candles.

photo 3The full party package – hat, blower thing, cake.

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an invitation to make justice personal….

Even though Mary-Hall and I have a pretty tiny corner of the interwebs, we love when we get to use it to speak up for causes that we believe in.  You’ve heard us talk about our Compassion International sponsor children on a number of occasions, and many of you will remember my summer adventure to Brazil with Justice & Mercy Amazon (an outreach arm of JMI).

On Tuesday, October 8th, Justice & Mercy International will be having their annual fundraising gala in Nashville, Tennessee and I’d LOVE to have you all there if you’re in my neck of the woods.  Seating is limited but there are still a few tickets available if you’d like to attend.  You can find more info by clicking on this link to the gala website.  The evening is going to be a blast including music from singer/songwriters Andrew Greer and Cindy Morgan, and maybe even a couple of quick songs from me and my fiddle….

benefitgala

Or, if you don’t live in Nashville, or parties just aren’t your thing, there’s another new way to support the work that Justice and Mercy Amazon is doing in Brazil.  We just rolled out this awesome line of t-shirts two weeks ago and they are selling like hot-cakes.  The baseball tee is super comfy and soft and I’m sort of obsessed with the line drawing of the boat that we sail down the Amazon River on.  (That tee comes in v-neck OR crew neck)  Or if t-shirts aren’t really your thing, there’s a handy tote bag as well.  So many ways to help make a difference in the life of an orphan, the poor, the forgotten.

apparel

Beverly Lays An Egg…..

If you’ve been keeping up with Eggwatch 2013 then you’ve either bitten all your fingernails off, or totally forgotten that we were still waiting on our last lady to start laying.  (We’ve done a little of both fingernail biting and forgetting.)  But yesterday, late afternoon, little Beverly Clucky waddled up the ramp in the coop and laid her first egg.  It was cute.  And tiny.  And we couldn’t be more proud of our girl.

Keith posted this shot of the egg on Instagram yesterday.  Isn't it perfect?

Keith posted this shot of the egg on Instagram yesterday. Isn’t it perfect?

Beverly Clucky: then and now.  Left: Coming to her new home on June 8, and the day after her first egg Sept 23, 2013.

Beverly Clucky: then and now. Left: Coming to her new home on June 8, and the day after her first egg Sept 23, 2013.

They grow up so fast.  It’s hard for this Mama to believe.  So now we’re up to getting 4 eggs a day.  That will slow a little bit as the days get shorter and colder, but for now we’re enjoying the plenty…and giving a few away as well.  I’ll leave you with some photos from some fun we had playing in the back yard today, and a funny video of Louisa the chow-hound demanding her snacks that Mary-Hall actually shot when she was in town last week.  Enjoy!

Me and sweet Beverly.  She's the shyest of them all, but such a snuggly one if you can catch her.

Me and sweet Beverly. She’s the shyest of them all, but such a snuggly one if you can catch her.

Snacktime is a favorite...

Snacktime is a favorite…

Even Booger wants in on the action.  Such a sweet little farm family.

Even Booger wants in on the action. Such a sweet little farm family.

A Car-Camper’s Guide to Yosemite

I’ve always loved all things nature and outdoors related, but it wasn’t until Keith that I went on my first camping trip.  Granted, I’d flirted with camping since childhood…I spent my hard earned “Piano-Thon” winnings on a tent ($30 at the ArmyNavy store) when I was ten and slept in the backyard for a few hours on several different occasions until the sounds of the coyotes howling in the woods inevitably sent me scurrying inside to the safety of my bed.  (Our yard was fenced so there was no real danger, but still…I was ten.)

As a teenager, I did a few weekends at church camp and the like that involved uncomfortable sleeping arrangements in non-airconditioned cabins on plastic bunk-bed mattresses and long walks to the community restroom in the middle of the night with whichever sleepy youth leader was unfortunate enough to be sleeping closest to the door.  During my two brief stints at the JH Ranch in Northern California, I had a few nights where I slept outside….once in a spot atop a mountain with fellow staffer Michelle (we later found out our exact spot was a favorite haunt of a family of mountain lions…but thankfully we saw hide nor hair of the them the night we were there), and once just down the street from “Happy Camp” with my small group of high-school girls the night before our big white-water rafting adventure.

Keith captured this amazing shot of our Yosemite campground at night with some tips from our amazing photographer friend (and fellow camper) Jason Ward.

Keith captured this amazing shot of our Yosemite campground at night with some tips from our amazing photographer friend (and fellow camper) Jason Ward.

But it was Keith who first took me CAMPING Camping.  Like, leave-no-trace-behind-pack-your-stuff-in-and-pack-it-out-and-go-potty-behind-a-tree Camping.  We went to Rocky Mountain National Park and while I may have been a little nervous to be outside the tent past dark (there had been legit bear and mountain lion sightings on our trail the day before), I loved every minute of it.  I knew I wanted to go again, and at the beginning of this summer three different factors began to align into what would become an amazing trip:

  • Keith and I have been talking about another camping trip since the Rocky Mountain trip and we felt it was time to make good on all that talk.
  • Keith’s brother Mark (who wrote this awesome guest blog for us) has become quite the camping expert and he and Keith have been scheming a joint trip for awhile.
  • We’ve been wanting to travel somewhere, anywhere, with our dear friends,  Jason & Alexis (who live in San Diego, thus we never see them) for the past 3 years but a trip has never worked out.

When Jason & Alexis mentioned that they do a yearly trip to Yosemite and why don’t we join in this year, we knew that this was the opportunity to fulfill all three desires in one.  A camping trip with family and friends alike to one of the most beautiful places on earth?  Done.  We pulled together our camping gear, made one last trip to REI for essentials (like zip-off pant/capri/shorts for me), cashed in some frequent flier miles, watched the Ken Burns documentary and headed off for John Muir’s Wild West.

Mark, Keith, Me, Alexis and Jason at Tunnel View.

Mark, Keith, Me, Alexis and Jason at Tunnel View overlooking the park.

With a park as vast as Yosemite, there is truly something for everyone from the hardcore free-climbers who scale Half Dome with nothing but their fingertips to the elderly couple in their RV spending their retirement “seeing America” and buses full of international travelers and everyone in-between.  We spent a mere 3 days and 3 nights in the park so I’m not even pretending that we did it all.  But if Yosemite is a trip you’re considering and you’re a fairly middle-of-the-road active person/nature lover then I’m thinking that our itinerary might be for you.  It worked so well for us and we got a great sampler of all that the park has to offer.

We car-camped at the Upper Pines campground which was (at least when we were there) clean, quiet, well-located…and with a lovely restroom facility.  Car-camping was great because unlike back-country sites that require long hikes just to get to your site limiting the amount of supplies, we rolled right up and unpacked several bundles of firewood, a heavy cast-iron dutch oven (in which Jason later made a tasty birthday cake for Alexis!), five camping chairs, a queen-sized air-mattress….even a plastic tub to use as “the kitchen sink.”  For those of you who may think that you’re not outdoorsy enough to handle camping, you might want to check out some car-accessible campgrounds.  You can bring all the creature comforts that you can fit in your vehicle, and seamlessly transition between the great out-doors and your own well-equipped cozy space.

Although Yosemite has a coffee shop, a couple of deli-style “snack bars” (like you might find at a theme park), two grocery stores, a pizza parlor, and even a fancy restaurant at the swanky Ahwahnee hotel located inside the park, we opted to cook our own gourmet breakfast and dinner and pack our own lunches for during the day.  (I’ll bring you some of our favorite camping recipes in the weeks to come.)

Happy Birthday, Alexis!  Can you believe this amazing cake was cooked over a campfire?

Happy Birthday, Alexis! Can you believe this amazing cake was cooked over a campfire?  Photo credit: Keith Bordeaux

Our first day was relaxing as we spent it driving around the park, visiting the little shops and setting up camp.  Our second day in the park we rented bicycles from Curry Village (another campground site in the park) for the affordable price of $30 per person for the day and rolled leisurely around the park stopping to take a multitude of photos, take a dip in one of the icy-cold streams and watch some of the climbers tackle El Capitan.  The park is totally laid out for these beach-cruiser style bikes as the bike paths are wide and flat and lead to many of the parks sites such as Bridal Veil Falls and Mirror Lake (both of which, were sadly void of any water when we visited…but beautiful nonetheless.)  We also saw the headquarters of the Sierra Club which brought back memories of leafing through my mother’s yearly gift of a Sierra Club calendar when I was a kid.  I wish I could have taken that charming stone building and the library it housed back to Nashville with me.

Pausing on our cycle adventure to take in one of the meadows and the mountains beyond.

Pausing on our cycle adventure to take in one of the meadows and the mountains beyond.  Photo Credit: Keith Bordeaux

Day three was the most strenuous by far, although also probably my favorite day.  We caught the 8:30 AM shuttle ($25 a person, reservations required) up the mountain to Glacier Point and hiked the 8 miles down the Panorama trail.  Every view was absolutely stunningly beautiful.  The first 4 miles were pretty smooth sailing….steep downhills but nothing too difficult.  Then we came to a beautiful waterfall where we stopped for lunch, swam in a freezing mountain river and took advantage of the restroom facilities the park has helpfully provided there.  The last four miles were for certain the most tiring and tricky….but worth every step (I was super glad we were going down though, and not up!)  All in all the trip is totally worth every minute, penny and step for the serious outdoorsperson or the casual family traveler alike.

Hiking Past Vernal Falls....mile 6 of our 8 mile hike.

Hiking Past Vernal Falls….mile 6 of our 8 mile hike.  Photo Credit: Keith Bordeaux

hors d’ oeuvres are served….

The other day I was looking for something healthy for dinner and I decided to flip to the appetizers section of my Paleo Diet Cookbook.  I wasn’t super hungry….I just wanted something yummy and easy for dinner that wouldn’t pack on the pounds.  I settled on two recipes, tweaked them slightly (as always) and now I bring them to you!  Super tasty…perfect for two, or for a party!

Dinner is served!  Stuffed Shrooms and Mini-Roast Beef wraps.

Dinner is served! Stuffed Shrooms and Mini-Roast Beef wraps.

 

Stuffed Shrooms

Ingredients

*1 package whole mushrooms (about 12)

*1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

*3 garlic cloves, pressed (or 1 tablespoon diced garlic from a jar.)

*1/2 cup diced shallots

*1/4 cup white cooking wine

*1 tablespoon dried basil

*1 tablespoon dried oregano

*1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Remove stems from mushrooms, chop finely and set aside.

2. Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium flame.

3. Add garlic and shallots and saute for two minutes while stirring.

4. Pour in white wine and bring to a slight boil.

5. Toss in chopped mushroom stems, parsley, basil and oregano.

6. Reduce heat to low and simmer for five minutes.

7. Remove from heat and drain off any excess liquid.

8. Spoon into mushroom caps.

9. Place on cookie sheet and bake in oven for 20 minutes until mushrooms are tender.

Stuffed Shrooms.  Sooo yummy.  Get 'em while they're hot!

Stuffed Shrooms. Sooo yummy. Get ’em while they’re hot!

 

Mini-Roast Beef Wraps

Ingredients

*1 pound thinly sliced roast beef (not too thinly though! )

*1 small avocado

*1 cup raw spinach, washed and coarsely chopped

*1 small apple, washed and cut into 8 wedges

*1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

*1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary

Instructions

1. Lay roast beef slices out on a cutting board or other smooth surface.

2. Mash avocado until it is spreadable (like guacamole.)  Using a butter knife, spread onto each slice of roast beef.

3. Layer with spinach and apple wedges.

4. Sprinkle with oregano and rosemary.

5. Roll to create wraps.

6. Cut into bite size pieces (and spear with a toothpick for use at parties.)

Bite-size wraps.  So tasty!

Bite-size wraps. So tasty!

Oh Spammers

Something is up on the interwebs this week.  Our blog has been getting a lot of unusual attention.  We normally get 2 – 3 comments per post, of which 97% are from people we know in real life.  But oh this week, something is amiss and we have gotten about 20 in the past two days, all from new readers.  As a responsible blogger, I feel like I shouldn’t be letting all these inquiries go unanswered.


mustafa

Dear Mustafa,

I appreciate for your comment.  However, I have searched the blog over for a Tip about Bacon and alas, there is none.  Thank you for reminding me to add a search box and also for pointing out a glaring deficiency in our subject matter – Bacon!  We will definitely include more bacon tips going forward.

All the best, Mary


billwill

Dear Bill,

What is it like to have two rhyming first names?  Anyway, there is only one other contributor to this site, so I will have to consult with her about her very bad behavior.

Please give our regards to your wife!


easter

Dear Easter,

Clearly, instead of Food Friday or Foto Friday, we need to start a Spelling feature.  For whatever reason, all our dear commenters misspell exactly ONE word.  I believe you meant, “veracity”.   On the other hand, I do like word scramble games.  So keep doing what your doing!


cassia

Dear Cassia –

That is quite the tale. Is it possible you have the wrong blog?  Kind of like a wrong number on the phone, but weirder?  Sue is not here, in any case.  On the other hand, best wishes to Dan.  That sounds like a big ordeal, especially including a pub crawl on top of everything else.


marik

Dear Marik –

Bethany and I are practically a bluegrass band ourselves.  Bethany is a professional violinist and I dabble in the banjo.  Please tell Doyle that we are very very disappointed in his behavior.  And also, in my opinion the rap+clowns genre could use some fresh influence following the works of ‘Insane Clown Posse’ so Doyle may actually enjoy great success on that path.


???

Dear AmAl –

Thank you for the kind words. We are truly flattered. Perhaps you could send us one of the “Top 5% of the Internet” buttons next time. Do those still exist? Although we don’t have the article you mentioned here on this site, it does sound exactly like something we would write. Farm animals are so much fun.


Whew, that’s all I can handle for tonight. We will always strive to answer comments here on this blog, but right now I have an email from the KING OF GHANA to answer.

Welcome Aboard: You are now cleared for Pre-FlightAnxiety

When I was a kid, we lived in Texas and my Mom’s parents (my Grandma and grandpa  that I’ve told you about before)lived in New Jersey. Even if you’re US geography isn’t too hot, you’ll probably remember that those two states aren’t exactly close together. Like, not at all. In fact, we lived about 1,563 miles apart and a current Google Map search suggests it would take 22 hours to drive there, but “25 hours in current traffic.” Mom wasn’t much excited about a 50-hour round trip by herself, much less with a baby/toddler/small child in tow so we flew instead 2 or 3 times a year to visit my grandparents (along with a large assortment of cousins, aunts, uncles and other various family members that lived near my grandparents). My first time on a plane I was only a few months old and from that time forward, I racked up frequent flier miles like a champ on airlines such as Delta, American and Braniff….and I have many sets of playing cards and plastic “wings” to prove it.

I loved flying as a kid. It seemed terribly exciting to take off and zoom across the sky and watch the world below shrink away into something from a fairy tale.

“Look Mommy!  Those cars are little now like dogs.  Like hot wheels. Like ANTS!”

Back then, airlines served a hot meal on almost every flight and your luggage always flew free.  In  the history of flight evolution, two things stick out in my mind: the day my one-flight-a-week type of commuter Dad came home complaining about how the airline had had the audacity to discontinue hot meals in the coach cabin and had instead handed him a sack lunch to eat (imagine! A free sack lunch being a bad thing!  My flight today offers a box of chips, candy and string cheese for about $7). The other was a much better day….the day we boarded our first non-smoking flight. That’s right!  Now it’s all about getting a window or an aisle and how far from the bathroom you’d like to be. But it used to be an issue of ensuring that your seat was in the non-smoking section at the front of the plane. And not only being in the non-smoking section, but being far enough up that you couldn’t smell the smoke from your seat.  Which really, you could smell the smoke everywhere. While I’m not a fan of all the newly imposed baggage fees and and paying for premium seats in coach, that whole no-smoking thing was a good move for the airline industry. And goodness knows, they needed a good move.

Im not sure when the switch happened And I went from gleefully counting the number of swimming pools I could see out the window to worrying about being part of the next terrorist attack, but somewhere along the way, I became a nervous flyer.   Not full-on, panic-attack, can’t-get-on-a-plane at all, nervous (although there was ONE episode involving a very tiny plane and only one pilot on a safari trip in Africa  where I wasn’t sure I’d actually make it) but definitely loose-lots-of-sleep the night before and clench the arm of the seat next to me nervous.  It’s a bit inconvenient as (if you’re keeping score) I travel a lot. I fly almost every weekend for work during the fall and spring seasons and my husband and I love to travel both for work and fun: overseas, domestic, whatever we have frequent flier points for.  I feel like the older I get, the more of a battle my pre-flight anxiety becomes.  To be honest, it’s not the flying that scares me (although my boss always throws me a sympathetic glance when things got really bumpy as she knows that doesn’t help matters much), its the takeoff and preflight stuff. It’s the conspiracy theory of it all.  For example, is the pilot sitting behind me on his way to catch a connecting flight he is captain of REALLY a pilot on his way to catch a flight? Or is he impersonating a pilot to get on board?  See? It’s totally irrational anxiety. Well, that and a touch of claustrophobia, because lets face it: if something goes down on your flight, theres no real way out.  Once we take off and hit that glorious altitude of 10,000 feet, I’m fine it’s just the getting through the boarding process up through takeoff that freaks me out. Then I’m happy as a clam…typically curled up in a window seat with a good book, good tunes, my Bible and an appreciation for the fantastic symmetrical ways farmers think to plant their crops and mow their fields.

I love traveling and I will never let this thing stop me from going places and seeing the world and embracing life. And if any of you are wrestling with this same thing, let me share with you some tips.

*take deep breaths. This sounds basic, but it slows down your heart rate that’s pumping all that nervousness through your body.

*have a distraction. Talk to a friend. Read a book. Listen to calming music. Annoy the person sitting next to you. Wait. Don’t actually do that. No one likes a chatty stranger on a plane.

*pray. I pray like crazy on planes. I usually start asking God for safety and traveling mercies and then to remove my anxiety and then just keep on going until I realize that I’ve interceded for my  entire family, most of my friends and what they are dealing with, and have moved in to just sort of telling God my thoughts and thanking Him for life and all that I have.

*find a seat where you feel comfortable (for me, a window seat at the front of the plane) and do what it takes to sit there.  Most airlines allow you to choose your seats ahead of time or purchase an early boarding pass so you can board in time to pick a good one. Also some flight attendants and just other passengers are accommodating enough to help you out if you find yourself somewhere that you don’t think you can keep it together.  No one wants to sit next to the person having a breakdown.

*find a way of thinking about it that doesn’t scare you. For example, I love boats and trains. Neither freak me out. So when the skies get bumpy, I just pretend I’m on a boat and then it becomes sort of fun!

*talk to someone about it. As with anything, if it impacts your life, the way you live or work, then you might benefit from just having a good conversation about what might be causing the fear or anxiety with someone who knows what they are talking about.  You might find it s an easy fix!

And remember what my husband always says, “I love flying. It’s always a blue-sky day up here.”

image

I was blue, just as blue as I could be
Ev’ry day was a cloudy day for me
Then good luck came a-knocking at my door
Skies were gray but they’re not gray anymore

Blue skies
Smiling at me
Nothing but blue skies
Do I see

Bluebirds
Singing a song
Nothing but bluebirds
All day long

Never saw the sun shining so bright
Never saw things going so right
Noticing the days hurrying by
When you’re in love, my how they fly

Blue days
All of them gone
Nothing but blue skies
From now on

I should care if the wind blows east or west
I should fret if the worst looks like the best
I should mind if they say it can’t be true
I should smile, that’s exactly what I do

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