The garden in May

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A trip to the nursery to get us going on some plants, while the rest are in the greenhouse growing.

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And a new plant.  Gooseberries. The funny thing is that we had 2 gooseberries plants when we first move here to the US.  I love eating (green) gooseberries growing up, so we planted some in our garden.  They never did much, and by the time Siena was born, those super large needles worried me that this crawler of a girl we had, would grab one of those big thorns and get hurt, because those plants were so big that we couldn’t contain them within the garden space.  So out they went.  We changed them for blueberries… which they never did much either because the birds would eat them before we got to them. DSC_0057

So here we are again.  I will leave it to the gardeners to decide location and to care for it.  Maybe it will do better.  I am sure actually.

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Spring in May

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DSC_0191My Mother’s Day Clematis has done her job and shared it with all of us.  What a treat.

DSC_0230 Roses everywhere, so beautiful.

DSC_0223 A wild bouquet.

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DSC_0227Because all those colors outside… I had to bring some inside too before the rain was coming.

DSC_0210 The apple trees in the backyard are getting full of leaves for sure.  That shade is so nice for those hot days.  It cools it as much as 10 degrees I think.  it is so nice to have.

 

DSC_0198 Chives beauty.

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I know the heat is coming….

 

Being aware because of the hoop

Last month or so we Mark, changed the basketball hoop we’ve had in our backyard, for a long time.

I remember when we bought that first basketball hoop when we bought our house (20 years ago) and decided it was an expense we wanted to spend, even when our pay checks were not that big, and after buying a house, it felt that the $20 was overspending.  But we did it, and looking back, I think it has been the most used $20 we’ve ever spent.

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The hoop was completely broken.  There was a hole on the side of the garage wall, from all the bouncing and use of the hoop all these years.  The hoop was crooked, falling off the wall, loose almost dangerous some might say.  The net couldn’t be held because the metal hooks were broken as well, and it could have probably been better not to have a net.

Lucas never said anything, and kept on playing, shooting hoops every single day, time and time again.  By himself and with friends.  One friend, two, three or eight.  It doesn’t matter.  It’s always fun and he’s always out there.  More in the recent years, but he’s been always playing.

Changing that hoop, made me think about the past and how much we’ve changed as person, as a couple and now lately, as a family.  Changing that basketball hoop after 20 years of playing and bouncing balls off the rim, made me realize how different my life is after 20 years…. of adulthood.  (Or when did I become an adult?  Is it really at 21? or 18?  Not sure I know when that was, but for me, my life changed drastically when I got married and moved to the States.)

I was 25, and we had just bought this house, our first house.  We had lived in rented apartments, but this house… this is ours and this is home.  And it was in that first month of home ownership that we bought that one basketball hoop.

Back then, it was just Mark and I playing basketball, with no dream of having a family just yet, actually scared of the thought of it.  We had other plans and other dreams.  We were doing what we loved to do, and whatever we wanted to do. We traveled and went out to dinner as often as we wanted.  We didn’t have to be back home at any given time, except when we were tired.  We were in that sense free of those responsibilities.

Today, I still can say I am doing what I want to do, and what I love to do.  It is just different but it is exactly what I want for right now and love.  I want different things and it makes me happy to know that I can do them.  It is my choice, and I feel so very lucky to be able to do that.  Yes, I am doing my dream job.  I do have to say, that like any job, there are  those hard days.  But for the most part, I think I’ve won the lottery.  I live with my best friend and these two amazing kids that I love so much.  I can’t think of a better way to spend my days.

I would have never guessed that having bought that basketball hoop was going to be something special for me and for my family.  Not that I am attached to it, but I am thankful for what it has given me, us.  I am thankful for all the times Mark and I played basketball out there (him making more baskets than me, but who cares.)  I am thankful for the times we had friends over and we’d end up throwing the ball.  When we’d have our neighbors for dinner, and end up shooting a ball or two.  Or someone would stop by to say hello and would be enticed by that basketball laying on the ground to try once or twice.  Or now, with kids, when they too feel the need to bounce the basketball and shoot at the hoop.  And their friends, and our friends.  And today, all those invitations specifically to play basketball in our back yard.

It is not a full court by any means, not even a half court.  The dogwood covers much of the area that can be used for shooting the ball, especially beginning spring.  The branches have been trimmed many times in these 20 years, and we’ve had to decide what is healthy for the tree and what we can live with.  Which shots are worth having clear and which ones will have to live with a branch crossing over.  It is a compromise.

I am thankful for what it has made me realize and think over, because it reminds me of the fleeting moments that sometimes I don’t take the time to savour.  It is just a thing, I know, but a thing that has made me feel lucky once again.  A reminder.  A reminder of how lucky I am in so many ways, in so many levels.

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Lucas is the one mostly using this basketball hoop these days, and you should see in his face the excitement of having this new metal orange round hoop.  One that works.  One that is not sideways, almost falling off the wall, threatening them to fall on your head. One with springs that make the ball bounce off its rim.  Really.  It is a pretty simple luxury, that is well worth the $30 (inflation).  And who knows.  Maybe we won’t have to change it until we are in our sixties. Wouldn’t that be a treat!  Twenty dollars for twenty years of basketball fun.  I’d pay a $1 a year any time!

In the kitchen

IMG_1882 copy IMG_1885 copyThe other day I made this new recipe of Peach Pecan Crisp.  It was really good warm.  The kids and Mark had it with ice cream (I don’t like mixing it like that.)

IMG_1890 And then Mark finished it off for breakfast I think, because it was gone just like that.  So I think  at least one of us really liked it and gave it a 10 (in our food scoring system.)

And talking about food, I found this video about food.  A good reminder.

IMG_1518 IMG_1511 IMG_1513 Another day I made this Crackly Banana Bread from the Smitten Kitchen, and I must admit it was the best banana bread I’ve had in a while. I liked the crackly part… I gave it a 10, and I am not sure what everyone else did, but I am making it again. (Since I am the one asking for scores and manage the whole food scoring system, if I like something, it’s in the repeat binder.  Fair, right?)

Siena made these Cake Pops. They look so pretty!

IMG_2015 IMG_2147 Siena had a Swim-A-Thon last week, where the kids had to swim laps for 1 hour and 20 minutes.   As many laps as they could. So we set up a table of snacks for them, because we know how hungry these swimmers get.  We made these really good Pumpkin Chocolate Chips Cookies that I had printed the recipe from many years ago (10 maybe?)  The funny thing is that we had to make a lot of cookies, and I debated.  But we went ahead and made a triple batch of first-time cookies… but anything with chocolate can’t go wrong, right?

I changed it a little for mixing 1 cup all purpose flour and 1 cup of whole wheat.  They were good.

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And another found recipe from my pile, but newer (Cooking Light, May 2015) was this Marshmallow Popcorn Treats (with dark chocolate drizzle.) Also a keeper and liked by the kids.

It takes time to go through my too many pieces of magazine clips and printings from online recipes, but I do enjoy getting the new ideas and new recipes to try.  From dinners to desserts, to snacks and breads.  They are all a go and then are either discarded or kept.  This system is actually working for me right now.  But the pile of recipes to go through and try are too many.  There is no way we’ll make all these recipes in a year, or two, or even 5!  Besides, I have all those books in the kitchen too… but it’s working, and it’s very inspiring.  And a real plus if we find a meal that everyone enjoys.  That is a 10 in my books!

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These two helpers I am really enjoying having around the kitchen.  They are a keeper as well.

Barking again

IMG_1375 Every couple of years we put new bark in our backyard, where the chairs and picnic tables are.  It makes it look so nice and clean and neat again.

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But we have to dig out the old bark so it doesn’t get too high and go over the edges too much.   This year, all that hard work, was mostly done by Siena and Lucas.

IMG_1414 They did so good and worked really hard to make it happen.  Because there were only few hours in between swimming or baseball.  The rain was coming.  And the bark chips had been delivered to our friends’ from yard and couldn’t leave them there for too long.  The job had to be done.

IMG_1415 And they did it all.  Dug it all out.  Placed it in the backyard.  Wheelbarrows after wheelbarrows of cedar chips brought from few houses down.  Almost 4 cubic yards of bark.

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I helped with the hydration, of our first lemonade-rhubarb drink over ice.  At the end, sore hands and muscles, with few blisters, and tired arms they saw their hard work look so beautiful, and for what they say, smelling so good too.  Thanks to the youngest two in our family, we have a beautiful backyard sitting area, ready to be enjoyed many, many times by us and our friends.  We are ready for spending our time out there.   Thank you you two.

In the kitchen

To go along last month’s kitchen posts, I can see I only take photos of the desserts and treats that are made here at home…DSC_0102 Siena made these cupcakes to take to some friends’ place.  She really like (cup) cake decorating.  I think Mark wouldn’t mind if she practiced more… (ha, ha!)

DSC_0024 2Poppy seed and lemon cookies made by Siena too.

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I made this rice pudding from this book.  In Chile there is a dessert called “Arroz con Leche” (Rice with Milk) but I’ve only made it a couple of times in all these years.  I never think of it, but this time it was perfect with a name like “Leftover – Rice Pudding.”  Perfect!

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And as we ate it at my house growing up, we added apple sauce.  Another way to eat our apple sauce as the excitement of having it is slowing down.

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There were a couple of weeks of menu planned but not every day.  I’m slacking, and it’s getting a little more hectic around meals.  I need to get in the groove again.  But even though not every day was planned, we did eat a meal.

DSC_0106 Pot roast.

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And home made rolls from this recipe.  I tried it last month, and we all liked it, and it’s so quick! Love it.

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I’m continuing to organize all my clipped recipes from years collecting them and it always inspires me to try something new.  So far so good!

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Happy cooking everyone!

Spring?

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The rhubarb is one of the first vegetable, plant appearing in our garden.  This plant is from some friends who gave it to us long, long time ago.  18 years?  They lived here in Portland for few years, we became friends, they had kids and they moved back East.  When they left Portland, we had our house and they gave us their rhubarb.  Three plants.  One of them is very strong.  The other two, I transferred them last year to this new spot.  I think this is a better place already.  (Thank you Lisa!)

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Is Spring really coming?  I know, it always seems too early when the first flowers start to bloom.  Seeing in the news all the snow falling in the rest of the country, seems that purple crocuses shouldn’t be flowering just yet. DSC_0045

The rosemary is also starting to bloom, but it is a little hardier. DSC_0046 DSC_0047

It is these delicate petals that make me wonder about spring.

DSC_0037 DSC_0039 DSC_0041Is February Purple Flower Month then? Or maybe (most likely) we like purple so we have only early blooming flowers that are purple. (Probably this last one is truer.)  But I guess I wouldn’t mind the first one either…. so Happy Purple Flower Month to you all!

Making : Vintage Sheet Quilt

As I am trying to organize my pictures from last year (trying to make a photo book, inspired by my post few weeks ago, inspired by SouleMama’s post, I’ve realized there are many projects and things I didn’t post last year.

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I did take a long break from blogging last year (about six months) and it felt so good to not have to spend as much time in the computer.  But I’ve realized there were lots of pictures in folders that I never looked at.

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I’ve been saving all those old (vintage) sheets I’ve found in garage sales and thrift stores for years.  I’ve thought about using them to make pajama pants (something like these), or maybe bags (envelopes or for grocery bags), or napkins, flags or buntings, hot pads, or pillows, bias tape, tunic or an apron, or curtains (in our bedroom we need something to cover our closet, which is of a funny shape, and the extra heavy door fell down almost 20 years ago)  or any of the exciting projects you can find on Pinterest.

DSC_0323 copy I decided to start with a quilt.  Like a summer-ish quilt.

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I also made one for my mom, that I didn’t take a picture of.  They turned out pretty cute I think. DSC_0327 copy

I don’t want to forget those months of no posts, in the hopes that somehow this online journaling, will be part of “a thing” .  Not sure what exactly that thing would be but I am hoping it will turn into something so my family can remember these growing and learning years.

I don’t know if there is a correlation between me not blogging all those months and all the projects I did and finished. Maybe.

the kitchen during Christmas

we’ve been cooking and baking a lot lately, but not all were photographed.

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Some menu-making, lots of friends over, having fun.

DSC_0693 copyLucas made these gnocchi’s the last time he was in his outdoors day.  They made them with acorn flour they had made from scratch.  They were really good, so we shared them during  dinner when he got home.

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Inspired by Amanda’s post about grits we’ve had a couple of dinners this month. I use SouleMama’s recipe and some ideas of the topping and a combination of other online recipes.  And some more ideas I’d like to try.  It has been popular and a favorite of everyone.  A win-win meal I’d say.

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There were many days of baking.

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There was fudge made, and biscotti, and chocolate thumbprints.

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And of course, sugar cookies as well.

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And a day of decorating them all.DSC_0004 copy DSC_0001 copy Yellow and blue stars.

DSC_0006 copy Blazer Dancers…

DSC_0005 copy DSC_0007 copy DSC_0011 copyEiffel Towers.

DSC_0009 copy Basketballs and Blazers players.  Yellow snowmen and gingerbread men.

DSC_0012 copy DSC_0028 copy Smiley faces and Christmas trees.

DSC_0019 copy Squirrels and porcupines and baseballs.

DSC_0023 copy DSC_0018 copy DSC_0029 copyAnd a day of packing for friends to enjoy.

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And cinnamon rolls dough being mixed by everyone.

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I’d say, these were the best cinnamon rolls of all time.  Probably because we all worked on them together.

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I have to add to the goodness of these is seeing our kids hand over a plate over the fence, full of warm cinnamon rolls to our friends.  It is as much of a tradition as it is to make them and eat them.  Sharing them with our friends that morning, as we have for close to a dozen Christmas mornings, is a sweet gift that reminds us how lucky we are to have them in our lives.

How I wish I could have pictures of our kids delivering and taking these plates over the fence with Christmas morning faces with their brief smiles and comments of presents received… because in these 12 years they’ve changed and grown up so much, but it’s probably the same plate being offered all these years.  To sweetness of all sorts!  I hope you’ve enjoyed some good sweets too.

in the kitchen

As always, there’s been lots of cooking. We don’t go out a lot, so there’s 3 meals a day having to be had. Breakfast is not my forte, so it’s simple.  Lunch sometimes the kids prepare it for the three of us at home during the day, but we’ve been busy and trying new routines, so that’s on trial.

But there’s dinners.  That’s a must of course, the meal we spent together around our table, no one misses.  Some times we have friends over, and that is great too.  But it is our time together, to catch our breathes, to check in, to see what the week will bring us, and how our day was.  It is a very special time I am so glad we can spend it together, each day.

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And a menu has been so helpful, that I dread when I’m not on top of it, because it saves so much time, knowing what we are having at least during the week, when we are all more tired.

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But it requires some planning, and organizing.  Something I am trying to do.  All those magazine cutouts, with recipes I’d love to try.  but the pile keeps growing, and meals are happening… and not from this pile.  I need to go through them and then pick what to cook for the week.  it gives us 5 new meals to try, and thank goodness my family doesn’t mind new foods, because who knows!  There might be a keeper from all those clipped recipes!  but the menu is set for the week and I can breathe at ease again.

I’ve enjoyed chai daily.  Few times a day actually.  I make it with decaf tea, so it’s good for any time of the day. It is Heather’s recipe that I tweak here and there a bit, but follow it for the most part.

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And of course it tastes even better in my new birthday mug!

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I made our favorite apple cinnamon muffins.  They are so good!

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For my birthday I got two bread proofing baskets.  Not sure which bread recipe I can use them with, but I gave it a try with the bread I make every week.

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It grew some, but I think it didn’t get the whole effect it’s suppose to get from these baskets.DSC_0547 copy DSC_0548 copy (Before baking)

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But there’s nothing wrong about getting a cute looking homemade warm bread at dinner time, right?

We’ve had lots of other foods baked and cooked, and served, I just haven’t taken pictures. What have you’ve been cooking lately?  Please do share, I’d love to try new recipes.