Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Backyard Edition, July 27

This morning I slinked along. Ever so slowly I accomplished all the essential morning chores before I grabbed a cup of coffee and two slices of toast with blackberry jam. Since the heat wave hit I've been battling some serious sinus pressure and congestion but despite the incredible heat little Abe and I headed out back with our morning treats. He sat in his little green chair and I in mine. My tan little boy wore a simple pair of navy shorts, no shirt. He looked like every wonderful moment I can remember from my childhood; sun kissed skin, golden tinged hair, and the look of a well lived summer all over him.

We sat in the hot morning sun listening to the gentle breeze rustle the leaves on every tree. The birds were at work singing their morning tunes as usual despite the unusual temperature. The tomato garden in all of it's splendor spread out before the both of us and neither he nor I mumbled a word as we sat and ate.

I realized in that moment that I was experiencing perfection, pure simple wonderful perfection. A quite hot summer morning just relaxing with my son. Both of us enjoying the fruits of our labor, having fought the blackberry bushes together to collect the treasure. We then turned the fruits into the delectable jam. And now here we were, silent, together, enjoying the treat on such a splendid summer morning right alongside the garden we've so diligently tended to all summer long. These moments don't last long, but in them I find myself overcome with pure joy. I am forced to stop and think, to smile greatly, and to realize again each time, "this is life at it's finest!"

And now I document the garden growth.

First tomato turning red

Pie pumpkin plant in front.
Bidwell Casaba melon in back.

One of two bean plants.
I planted the seeds a little late this year but they should still do great.

One month of sunflower growth.
These are two different plants.
The photo in the upper right had corner is the first
sunflower sprout just over a month ago.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Blackberry Jam

My husband's grandma has a giant patch of blackberries in her backyard. Little Abe and I spent a good deal of time in the hot hot heat last Sunday filling a bucket full. Those plants are ferocious! They guard their treasure with swords drawn and ready to stab. You can see little Abe and his papa wearing long sleeves despite the heat as a sort of pathetic guard against the prickers. I refused to put on a long sleeve shirt or jacket and treated the whole endeavor like a game of operation. I was rather successful with the exception of one incident where a branch attacked my left hand and arm. Yowzers!

I haven't ever been a huge fan of blackberries but I couldn't pass up the offer of free berries, a fun adventure, and little Abe getting to spend time with his papa and great grandparents. Our bucket full of fresh berries soon became four jars of blackberry jam. I made the three ingredient kind with no gelatin or pectin. A lemon is used to help the jam gel. RECIPE HERE It turned out a little too lumpy (I couldn't get the berries to break up as much as I would have liked) and I wasn't sure that little Abe would like it very much BUT we've both been vastly enjoying it on toast these past few mornings. I also had a chance to try a second go at canning. Last year canning the green tomato chutney was my first try. I think I'm getting the hang of it. I may actually can some of the tomatoes from the garden this year instead of frantically trying to use them all up as they ripen. The entire adventure turns out to have been a win, win, win. Except for the one pricker attack.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

July Perfection

This month has been summer at it's finest. 
Sunshine never ending.
Lots of beach time, barbecues, outside fun, water fun, ice cream, and warmth all day.

Friends from all over the world have come home recently and there's been tons and tons of visiting. Just this past week we've had the immense privilege to visit with childhood friends who've moved to Oklahoma, Arkansas, Montana, and New Zealand; I mean what are the chances they'd all be home at the same time!?!? It's been so heartwarming to watch our children playing together.

The harsh, cold, dark month of February is at the top of my list for months of the year that drive me insane. But if someone can figure out how to bottle a little of July please let me know. This month has been nonstop busy and perfect!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Happy Place

I'm in my happy place today, a lazy cool Sunday as the weather insists on switching back and forth between sunshine and a light drizzle.
  • I've harvested some of the first tomatoes and have green tomato chutney cooking away on the stove. 
  • A wonderful friend who lives in New Zealand is visiting for the first time in eight years and I was able to spend some time with her and her family yesterday (and tomorrow). 
  • One of my very dearest friends delivered her first baby the other day; she's now a mom to an absolutely perfect baby boy and I am over the moon happy and excited for her. Welcome to the world little blessing!!!
  • I don't work today, have compounded happiness from all the wonderful blessings, and am loving every minute of mine and little Abe's lazy day together.

This is this year's first tomato, the first to blossom, the first to form and the first to be picked. I love the ugly beast! And he (along with four smaller green gems) will make this year's heavenly batch of green tomato chutney, a treat I discovered last year after my dog trampled my tomato plants.

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Bidwell Casaba Melon, July 16

The one surviving melon plant now has upwards of ten little melons on it. That fuzzy dew covered thing is a small melon. The only thing I have to compare this new venture to is the watermelon that I grew last year. That plant produced one melon that grew rather quickly but it kept making tiny melons, about this size that would just shrivel up and die. Now, looking at these ten plus tiny melons that do not seem to be growing I'm getting so anxious to see what happens.

I'm happy that there is definitely the potential for fruit, as the plant has clearly produced baby melons but my lack of patience is terrible. Although it seems like these fuzzy little darlings aren't getting any bigger and due to the "lovely" Michigan weather I'm in a race against the clock I have two things consoling me. 1.) This is the exact size that my one successful watermelon was on August 8 of last year. Which means I should probably not be as anxious about the clock as I've been. (One of the reasons you see so many gardening posts from me; I love to be able to quickly go back and compare from year to year). 2.) According to everything I've read, watermelon plants do generally only produce a few full size good melons, whereas casabas or muskmelons generally produce around a dozen. I think we're right on track folks. The Bidwell saga lives on!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Wednesday Home

Today I'm working on a backwards to-do list. Little Abe and I are trying to accomplish as much as possible (well sort of; we've been watching TV for the last hour) and then I'm adding each accomplishment to the backwards to-do list.

I don't work Wednesdays which equals: I love Wednesdays but I tend to think of this middle of the week random day off as a total veg day. Add this week's heat and I knew today would be completely unproductive if I didn't have a mission.

So far on the backwards list:

water and weed the garden
trim the tomato plants
read books together
go to the library
eat lunch in the backyard and watch the bumble bees
second thinning of the carrots
(there are about 50 carrots left in our bin now that should be able to reach full size)
play with play-dough
laundry (of course)
take the dog for a walk around the block

Well, I'd best get back to the list making or today will soon be over.

Happy Wednesday!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Today greeted us with carrots

I started the first thinning of our carrots today. The orange carrots are lagging behind but the purple carrots were ready to thin and offered us some small but delicious veggies. I only pulled enough for a salad so we'll thin another row and have more backyard treats tomorrow but how exciting that the garden is starting to feed us.

Do you see any carrots on this salad? There aren't any because my kid ate them all before I had a chance to use them. But it's my first carrot top salad of the year and it was summer perfection!

Friday, July 8, 2016


Do you ever have to make yourself a to-do list that looks something like:

wake up
make coffee
eat food
get dressed
remember to drink all of your coffee
finish list later

Like, would I really need to remind myself to wake up?
Sometimes it seems like it. Having one of those days for sure! Don't get me wrong, things here are great but where the heck is my brain!?!?!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Bidwell Casaba Saga

As you all very well know I purchased a seed catalog in February and happened upon a family seed. I discovered that the famous General John Bidwell was a cousin of mine, led the first wagon train to California (the Bidwell Bartleson expedition), and was a spectacular gardener towards the end of his life.

What proceeded was me spending way too much money on melon seeds that probably need a longer growing season then I have. The seed company assured me that the seed would grow here though, as long as I didn't let it get root locked. I know that I started the three little seeds too early but I was eager. Eager and gardening have never been a good mix.

At ten years of age my 9x great grandfather John Bidwell (1620) traveled from England to Connecticut with his father. The Bidwells were among the first settlers in Hartford Connecticut. In 1639, at 19 years of age he was allotted 4 acres of land in Hartford, Connecticut. To this day his name is on the monument erected in memory of the first settlers at Hartford.

(Feel free to skip ahead as a long list of who fathered who shall follow) John Bidwell (1620) was father of John Bidwell (1641) who was father of David Bidwell (1687) who was father of David Bidwell II (1720). The Bidwell's stayed in Harford, Connecticut for 100 years until my 6 times great grandfather David Bidwell II moved his family to Saratoga, New York. If you do any math you'll notice that a good deal of these boys were born when their father's (and actually their mothers too) were in their 40's. These were large families and some of the children were born later in the list but my reason for noting this is that my mom was born when her mother was in her 40's. My dad was born sixth in his family when his mom was in her 30's. And I had my first (and only child) at 32, which is considered borderline old these days. It's just a neat observation for me that even in the 1700's my family was having children late in life.

My 5 times great grandfather Jacob Bidwell (1758) was born in New York. His brother Abram Bidwell (1769) was THEE General John Bidwell's (1819) father. This all means that General John Bidwell (1819) and I share the same grandparents: my 6 times great grandfather David Bidwell II and my 6 times great grandma Esther Lawrence, making General John Bidwell of the Bidwell Casaba melon a first cousin.

After researching all of the above, three Bidwell Casaba melon seeds were sewn indoors at my house in March. Two of them sprouted almost right away and took off. The third sprouted several days later and grew slowly. The first two had roots growing out of the bottom of the little pots almost instantly. I thought it'd be a good idea to buy potting soil and move them to a bigger pot so they wouldn't get root locked. They didn't like that however and slowly wilted away. The third seed still grew slowly and I sort of considered it a dud. But I kept it around and eventually it made it's way to the small bed behind my garage (I really think it's roots were a jumbled mess by that time though).

My cousin general John Bidwell (1819) was born in New York, as was his cousin Ruth Bidwell (1790), my 4 times great grandmother. On June 4, 1833 my 4 times Grand Grandma Ruth Bidwell and her husband, my 4 times great grandfather Mishael Beadle were issued a land grant from the federal government for 53.06 acres of land in Michigan very near Lake Michigan (the grant states, "paid in full by Mishael Beadle"). The Bidwell's have been in the US for 386 years. But this line of my family has been in Michigan on the west side ever since, from 1833 to date, 183 years.

Very close to the same time that my 4 times great grandparent's came to Michigan, Ruth (Bidwell) Beadle's cousin General John Bidwell at the age of 20, in the spring of 1839, living in Western Ohio with his father Abram Bidwell had a "desire to see the great prairies of the west."

In 1839, six years after my family moved to Michigan General John Bidwell set out on foot to see the great prairies of the west with only a knapsack strapped upon his shoulders and a pocket knife for protection. He eventually found himself in the Iowa territory with a 160 acre plot. He wrote that he worked at putting up a log house on his 160 acres, "until all the people in the neighborhood became ill with fever and ague - I concluded to move on."

He moved on to Platte county of the Missouri territory. The area had just been purchased from the Indians and populated rather quickly. General John Bidwell wrote that it was rich with black dirt, there wasn't a field that wasn't fertile. You couldn't find an area without a beautiful spring of clear cold water and you'd find wild honey bees in every tree that had a hollow. It was a heavenly country.

He decided to stay, took the first job he could get as a teacher, and got a claim for a large area of land in 1839. Apart from the abundant rattlesnakes and copperheads he decided that this was precisely the "great prairies of the west" he'd been looking for and he wanted to make it his home. He planned to have his father join him there after he'd established himself. Unfortunately the following summer in 1840 he took a trip to St. Louis for supplies. He was gone for a month. He wrote in his memoir that, "This trip proved to be the turning point in my life, for while I was gone a man had "jumped" my land." Normally the locals would join together in removing such a scoundrel but the squatter, "was a bully - had killed a man in Callaway County - and everybody seemed afraid of him."

"All I had earned had been spent on the land and when it was taken I lost about everything."

Out of this bad luck he decided to go on a journey that no one had thus ever been on, to take a wagon train to the almost mythical land of California. He commented that at the time there were but 100 Americans total in that land and they were almost all wild men; trappers, fur traders, or sailors that jumped ship at port. Gold had not yet been found and so not many people were adventurous enough to make such a journey.

This year I've chosen to grow a strange orange sherbet flavored melon in tribute to this man, my cousin who went on a monumental journey filled with the unknown, founded a city (Chico, California), became a master gardener, sat on the California senate and fought for the rights of Indians but had no children and in tribute to my Bidwell line; settlers, travelers, and brave ancestors that have been in the US for almost 400 years. 

The one late blooming seed, the slow goer was planted in the back bed and started to do quite well until one day weeks ago when my dogs found a rabbit in our backyard and went on a rampage thoroughly trampling the gorgeous plant. The main shoot was severed. The leaves were all torn to bits and, well, it'd made it this far so I left it in hopes that it would stay the course.

At this point I imagine it should have long luxurious shoots all over my yard, much larger leaves, and maybe some tiny fruit but at least, and I say this with continued hope, at least it now has some flowers on it. I direct sowed a second seed in the bed next to this first plant but I really think it was planted too late. The Bidwell Casaba saga continues much the same as General John Bidwell's entire life, filled with the unknown.

This took a REALLY long time to write. I now feel the need to give a HUGE shout out to Sluggy as she writes some great ANCESTRY PIECES quite often. Oh, oh, OH AND one of Sluggy's relatives was apart of the 69 people who went on the Bidwell Bartleson expedition AND the 32 people who actually made it to California. What a super small world, right!?!?!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

This week in photos

This little dude got to watch a play for the first time, Charlotte's Web. We read the book together in anticipation. Quite fortunately most of the play was directly from the book so he completely understood what was going on the entire time. The only thing he was confused about was why the characters didn't look more like actual animals and spiders. I just had to tell him to use his imagination a few different times. But the play was fantastic, such an awesome experience, and I had the incredible privilege of watching two of my darling nieces on stage for the first time. Both of them had lines and did a stellar job.

The tomato plants I put in the ground May 17th have gotten quite big, lovely, and fragrant.  They're now covered in flowers but from what I can tell these two green bunches are the only actual fruit on any of the plants so far. What's the likelihood that the first tomato this year would be a total mutant? Look at that guy! But I LOVE it!!! That's character. That's sass. That's my kind of tomato. I hope he is able to endure the long road to red without getting bug infested or too serious of wounds. If so he'll be a real trooper.

Note to self: If you let your four year old son make a batch of puppy chow virtually on his own the recipe card will end up covered in peanut butter and powdered sugar. (He was supervised. I read the card to him, and he wasn't allowed to use the stove. But he did most of the scooping, dumping, mixing, shaking and package handling himself.)

We had a family game night this week. Now that my husband is on days things around here have changed a lot. We've never really done a family game night and despite the gross mess from the above game little Abe had the time of his life and the three of us really enjoyed each other. 

Rhubarb cordial use #3
French toast or pancake syrup

Little Abe and I tried both versions this week. I made a fruity pancake one evening and french toast one morning. Rhubarb cordial is works quite deliciously as a breakfast syrup. While not my husband's cup of tea little Abe and I thoroughly enjoyed the treat. 

Water, dirt, water, mud, water, water, and water! We've still be making the most of summer and spending lots of time outdoors in the yard. It's a darn good thing that we live less than two miles from the world's fifth largest lake (and the world's largest lake contained inside one country) because I'm pretty sure between the laundry, dishwasher, shower, and hose I've had the water running for three days straight this week.

I sincerely hope you all are making the most of summer this year (or your winter season if you're on the other side of the world). We're trying our best, that's for sure!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Backyard Edition

There's nothing really special about our little city lot; no pool, no big toys or forts, or patio, or lawn furniture (except for a camping chair I keep out back). But our yard has got to be one of mine and little Abe's favorite places to be.

Our garden is growing along nicely. It's been a bad year for the strawberries. Apparently it took the birds three years to discover them but they've been found and are regularly nibbled on now. Everything else is doing pretty great though. It stayed really cold here for a lot longer then normal but ever since the cold broke we've had the most lovely weather.

Thank the Lord that little Abe recovered from his bee phobia because our backyard is a bee paradise. First the giant 100 year old lilac bush blooms. Since it's so old the flowers don't stay long but as soon as they've fallen our six foot tall wild rose bush is covered in bright pink petals. Once the peek of rose petals passes the old honeysuckle vine starts to flower and fill half the yard with a vibrant old fragrance. It's lovely and it reminds me of a smell you'd happen upon at your grandmothers vanity. The aroma greets us as soon as we exit our backdoor and calls to the extremely elusive hummingbirds (the only time of year we'll ever see one around your yard is at honeysuckle time). The sweet peas that I'm in love with start to bloom shortly after the fragrant honeysuckle. Yep, a bees paradise and my own as well.

If you remember, I thought some of the sunflower seeds from last year's giant flower had wintered over. Nope. The little sprouts that looked identical were from wandering money plant seeds. I let one grow for such a long time, as the plant itself and the leaves looked so much like my sunflower. I have attempted to transplant that one money plant to the front yard and I've since placed a few sunflower seeds in its place. One seed sprouted about two days ago and as soon as it did a chipmunk found it, dug it out, ate the seed and then found the other not yet sprouted seeds. I planted six sprouts last year and ended up with ONE sunflower because that chipmunk kept digging up the plants to eat the seed.

I've now devised what I think is a brilliant chipmunk guard. I cut the top and bottom off of an apple juice bottle and stuck it over top of the newest little sunflower sprout. (I planted more seeds after the first chipmunk raid). Once the sprout is big enough the little furry fellow will leave it be and I'll pull the juice bottle off. This should work.

Now, if I can get this kid to stop whacking all the flowering bushes and vines in our yard with a huge stick the rest of our summer spent out back in our little simple paradise will be just perfect.

Monday, June 20, 2016

When Horrible Becomes Normal

Several people at work today asked me how I was liking the new job. My answer to all of them was, "I actually love it!" And frankly, those words were filled with sincerity and enthusiasm each time I said them.

I'm not sure that during my twenty some years of employment I have ever said, "I love my job." And yet today I said it at least four times. Work has always just been something that needs to be done for a pay check, you know. Now, don't go thinking that I've found myself some super fun, creative, dream career. Not in the least. My new job is a little weird, very busy, go, go go; it's almost exactly what I was doing before minus a lot of little awkward and messy details and all of the chaos.

Before I left my last job, before I buckled down and finally told myself that enough was enough I had completely gotten used to the disorganization, the horrible communication, and the obscene inconsistencies on a daily basis. I had gotten used to my hours being all over the spectrum. I had gotten used to constant stress and anxiety. I had gotten used to horrible. I knew that it was bad. I knew that it was getting worse. But it was my job. It had been my job for twelve and a half years, well over half of my working life and longer than all five of my other jobs combined.

Only today, after the fourth or fifth person had asked me how I was liking the new job, only after I answered with the utmost sincerity each time, "I actually love it!", only after I started to listen to myself say it and realize how refreshed, how revitalized, how excited I was to just be doing a regular job at one location for a company that strives to have all of their ducks in a row did I realize how truly normal horrible had become.

When horrible becomes normal it's virtually impossible to see it for what it truly is: not okay. I'm beyond words glad that I got out. June has truly, TRULY been filled to overflowing with sunshine!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

June Sunshine and Bees

This month has been jam packed full of adventure, sunshine, and fun; walks by the lake, a trip to the zoo, play dates galore, tons of fun in the garden and it feels like we've spent every minute of June outdoors. At this point I'm not exactly sure how I've ever survived a Michigan winter. The sunshine and warmth are so glorious and invigorating.

Last year, towards the latter half of summer little Abe got stung by a yellow jacket. A horrible bee phobia quickly ensued and it felt like this year's summer would be ruined. He didn't want to leave the house for any reason. He started to cry and shake when he heard any sort of buzzing. We couldn't even go to the playground without tears because at some point a bee would inevitably fly past.

I'm delighted to report that after the hundredth time having watched the Wild Kratts episode called "Flight of the Pollinators," and our many, MANY discussions about how most bees are nice and only sting when they're scared little Abe is not only over his phobia but he's made a habit out of watching bees work. If you look closely in the above photo you can actually see a small bee above the flower directly in front of his face. He also now spends a great deal of time watching the big fat bumble bees that continuously collect pollen from the wild rose bush out back. Thank goodness for summer and the vigor of little boys!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Empty Nest

Today, all of the bird watching/ egg watching came to a culmination and it was awesome!

One fine spring day we saw a Robin fly in and then out of the garage.
Much to our surprise she had deposited three brilliant blue gems inside.

May 20
Together mama and daddy robin started their family in our rafters.
She sat on the nest virtually around the clock for ten days straight.
All the while daddy robin stood watch.

May 30
After the two little darlings emerged mama and daddy took turns guarding their treasure
and filling these two hungry mouths.

June 8
Worm after bug after worm the babies grew non-stop.
And mama and daddy were there every minute of the way.

June 11

June 11
After 23 days of parenting the two proud robins now have an empty nest.
And two baby robins have been added to our neighborhood.

The robins have been very protective of their nest. They've hardly let it out of their sights for the past 23 days. They have a way warning tweet whenever we'd get too close to the garage and I think it's the dad that would puff up the small feathers on the top of his head to tell us we were getting too close. But today they were different. Today both the mom and dad were hovering around our backyard, tweeting out the warning tweet with force and one of them, I think the dad would dive bomb us whenever he thought we'd gotten too close.

I told little Abe that I was certain the babies would be leaving the nest today. Despite the angry parents we sort of hung around in the backyard or kept peeking out the kitchen window. I hoped that we'd get to see the babies and I thought it'd be spectacular to see them leaving the garage. I knew that the chances were so slim but I was certain they'd be leaving the nest today.

I was right and we got to see both of the babies. One we spyed hopping into the neighbors backyard. The mom and dad were coaching it and keeping us as far away as they could. But the second bird left the nest a bit later and I think mama and daddy were still trying to keep the first baby safe and tended to. The second baby we got to see peeking out from our garage. (It's the one I got the better photo of) I'm pretty sure he's still in there and I hope mom and dad come back soon to coach him too. None the less today was incredible!

We were so honored to host these little fellows in our garage and delighted to see them go. I'm thoroughly impressed at how well robins tend to their young. And I think it's safe to say I've fallen even deeper in love with nature.

*I apologize if the format on these photos is way too big. I know I'm pushing it a bit.

Schedule changes are for the birds

I think I love my new job. It's still surreal having my husband home and awake for dinner by five each night. I'm pretty sure working three eight hour days a week is going to be worlds better than working five, five-ish hour days. But I am beyond tired. I feel like I want to sleep for a week.

My husband whose worked the night shift for the past three years is now working 7AM-4:30. I've worked Monday thru Friday for over 15 years. About a year after little Abe was born I went to part time, working 25ish hours a week instead of 40, still mon-fri. Our schedule for the past three years has looked something like this:

Husband goes to work at night, just before 10PM.
Little Abe and I see him off and then we head to bed.
Little Abe and I wake up around 7:30 or 8:30 in the morning.
Hubby gets home shortly before or shortly after we wake up.
Generally I'm make him breakfast (his dinner) and then I head into work.
Little Abe goes down for a nap between 12:30 and 1:30 and my hubby goes to sleep for the day.
I get home around 2:30 or 3:00.
Little Abe wakes up around 3:30/ 4:30-ish
We eat a fairly late dinner together, Abe and I.
And repeat.

Every single thing in this line up has changed and I love it. I like going into work four and half hours earlier then I used to. I like my husband working days. I think I LOVE working three days a week instead of five. BUT I have cut out Abe's nap since I need him to be in bed by 8 now (he really still needs a nap). Going into work four and half hours earlier then normal means going to sleep much earlier, waking up much earlier, and actually setting an alarm. (you have no idea how terrified I am of being late now)

All this change feels very  much like jet lag. For the past two days I've hardly been able to hold my eyes open after the hour of 6PM. I slept great last night (not normal for me; I'm a terrible sleeper) but I woke up as if I hadn't slept a wink. We'll adjust but right now, WHOA I'M TIRED! And so is my kiddo and my husband. Our little family is happy as we've ever been but it's comical how tired we all are. If anyone happens to see a family of three wandering west Michigan looking very much like sleep walkers or the walking dead, no worries, it's just my little family going for a casual stroll.

Odd side note: Hubby just donated all of his hair.
For anyone who noticed, it was VERY long in the last photo I posted of him.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Youth, Independence, and Pop

I was one of the first of my friends to get a drivers license. And only because I got mine the day I turned sixteen and for some reason several of my friends chose to wait. The friend group I spent almost every weekend with during those horribly awkward adolescent years was made up of about ten girls. After we could drive we added about six guys to the club.

Shortly before getting licenses, at the age of fourteen and fifteen we would walk downtown in all of our independence and glory and hang out at the local coffee shop. I grew up in an uppity college town, The coffee shop we frequented was a posh college hang out and we certainly felt mature whenever we were there. A few of my friends were drinking coffee, mocha's and lattes and cappuccinos by that time but I certainly was not. My mom said it stunted growth and I thought it was repulsive. But I did have a paper route (a source of income) and I loved to order the Italian creme sodas from JP's (that was our coffee shop).

To this day I've only ever had an Italian creme soda from that coffee shop in my hometown (a neighboring town to where I live now). Maybe they made the thing up, who knows but I loved that drink. They'd take club soda and add any syrup you'd like. I always chose strawberry. They'd top it off with half and half which sounds weird but it foamed up a lot like whip cream and slowly fell to the bottom as you drank it and it was heavenly. I'm fairly certain that whipped cream was then added to the top of it all as well.

Rhubarb cordial use #2
Flavoring for a Rhubarb Italian Soda

Lemon lime soda (I just didn't want to buy club soda)
a good splash of Rhubarb Cordial
Topped off with half and half

I know it looks like an alcoholic beverage in a weird fancy glass at a picnic. It's pop in my backyard. This pink soda perfectly represents independence in my youth. A time when my friends and I were wild and free (or so we thought), when life was chaotic to say the least (adolescence always is) but simple. This is the first time I've ever tried or thought to make this beverage at home and it turned out fantastic!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Lesson Learned

I've learned something new this week. I've learned that I mustn't buy clothing for myself on line. Like, never, for any reason. I just should not do it.

With all these life changes, schedule changes, routine changes, ect; I felt the need to really tackle clutter and closets and at least as much of my house as I have steam to tackle this month. It may seem like I'm piling extra onto an already big heap but I think it's the perfect time. Right now while everything is turned upside down I can see no better time in which to turn my house upside down too.

I went through my closet at the end of May. My closet isn't very large and my wardrobe isn't very extensive but I have a lot of clothes that I never wear. It's funny, at least in my situation that when you stop wearing something, either because it no longer fits, has gotten too crumby, or you just really don't like it, that article of clothing just sort of disappears. It's like it turns invisible. It just becomes a sort of wallpaper for your closet or your drawer.

Until I went through my wardrobe last month and my dresser this month I felt that I had such a small amount of clothing. It's true I have a small wardrobe but since going through all of it I have gotten rid of 55 things that either needed to be tossed or donated. I could have never dreamed before hand that I had 55 completely unwearable things in my room. I had so many clothes that I just couldn't or won't wear anymore. The sad trend that I found is that aside from two pair of lounge/ workout pants every single item I've ever purchased online I got rid of this week. It was a sad realization to come to because several of the items I loved so much while they were on the computer. I wanted to love them so much once they arrived. But without fail none of them fit right, or I felt uncomfortable each time I wore them. They all had to go. They were all just constantly hanging out in my closet or dresser acting as taunting wallpaper.

Marie Kondo, the wildly famous organizer has said that each time we get rid of something we should thank it for the purpose it served in our lives. I got rid of several practically new items of clothing this week that I ordered online and that I will never wear. One in particular, a shirt that I loved (online), that I wanted to so badly because it was so "me," I made my husband get it for me as a birthday gift last year even though he said it was ugly. I wore it once. ONE time. I had to get rid of it because it fits horribly and (little did I know from the picture online) it has a completely functional zipper running down the back of it. Like someone could literally zip my shirt right off of me from behind if they wished to be cruel. Plus who wants their hair constantly getting caught in the zipper running down their back?

I did not thank each article of clothing for the purpose it served as I put them in the donate pile or the trash but I did thank that shirt. I said as I placed it in the donate pile, "thank-you for teaching me once and for all that I cannot order clothing online." And I meant it. As much as I hate to shop, online shopping is not the easy way out for me. Lesson learned.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

New Chapters can be terrifying, but the terrifying ones are sometimes why we keep reading

10:00 PM, June 5th, Sunday night.
Right now my story has me sitting in a quite room in front of my computer. Piano music is playing softly in the background and the dishwasher and old laptop are humming along. As the sun began to set only moments ago the sky turned ferociously dark and raindrops are now tapping on the tin siding. My loved ones are sleeping, aside from the two furry children who are slowly pacing around at my feet. The smell of ginger and coffee cake is wafting through the house as an early morning treat is baking in the oven. I could hardly be more at peace. Apart from actually being asleep this is rest, this is the rest I was seeking out this month and yet my mind... I am at peace but a terrifying anticipation is swirling right at the edge of all the calm.

I just keep thinking, "twelve and a half years." For twelve and a half years I've put on a black polo and khaki pants five days a week. For twelve and a half years I've worked such a strange job, driving from store to store filling out reports, resetting sections, installing graphics and application books and pretty much anything else that might be found in a supermarket, signs, stickers, fixtures, the list is virtually never ending. For twelve and a half years I've been a wanderer of sorts, never having a concrete schedule, never really seeing my boss (or any fellow co-workers for that matter), never having guaranteed work and often times having much too much work. The people I saw each and every day weren't ever really co-workers even though I've made many friends throughout the eleven stores I called mine. For twelve and a half years I haven't worked a weekend or a holiday. For approximately 20,000 hours of my life I've been on the clock working for the same employer and for eleven of those twelve and a half years I was pretty happy with my job.

For most of those twelve and a half years I worked for a very small company that like most every small company these days was bought out by a very large company. Just recently we've "officially" been absorbed. Just recently my job has become unbearable. But, for a little over a year things have been getting worse, and worse, and worse. Tomorrow is the day that I let my company know that enough is enough. I can't do it anymore. I can't work at a place where I feel very little respect, where my voice is not heard or at least never listened to, where almost every answer I get for almost every question I ask is a total non-answer. I can't work at a place where communication, organization, and direction are going downhill at an ever increasing pace.  I've been scared to leave. I've been scared to change paths, to jump ship, to do something else. I was just holding on hoping that a better day would come. I can't hold on any longer. Enough is enough but there's a twelve year backstory and that makes me a little heart sick, a little nauseous, and a little terrified.

Tomorrow is the end of twelve and a half years. But I think this is the end of the terrifying chapter. I think new, exciting, and just a little bit different are the theme of the chapter to come. I did mention that big changes were happening this month, right?
(My husband isn't the only one starting a new job this month)

Rhubarb Fruit Leather

I apologize in advance for what looks like a never ending string of posts about rhubarb. Especially because several of you have noted that you cannot find rhubarb in your regions. Tomorrow marks the official start of my husband's new position (among other changes). These rhubarb posts may just be my way of distracting myself from the never ending onslaught of thoughts swirling around in my head about changes, changes, changes, and more changes. Between mixed feelings of excitement, thrill, wonder, fear, helplessness, and terror I'm kind of an inward mess of emotion. I'm using rhubarb to distract myself. Classic, right?

First off, the rhubarb fruit leather was a huge hit. I have a husband who... hmm... picky doesn't even come close to describing his eating habits but I'll just leave it at that. He saw the fruit leather shortly after it'd cooled and inquired as to what this freakish sheet of... "what the heck is that?" like he normally does about anything new with that same look on his face. It's sort of the look you might make if you saw a dead frog squished in your driveway. It's not pretty but I'm used to it from him.

None the less he was super intrigued and possibly very hungry because he actually tried the freakish looking sheet of brown tinged with red. He never lets on when he's actually impressed with something I make and he followed suit in this instance. BUT now hardly two days later I went to the bag of fruit leather to take a photo for you fine folks and this is all I had left. It's hard to tell scale from the photo but this is a very small bit of rhubarb fruit leather. I'd used 3 to 4 cups of rhubarb pulp to cover an entire baking sheet.

Little Abe did not like it because it was much too tough. I severely overcooked it. But the flavor was fabulous. So that if you like jerky in the least and if you like the taste of sweetened rhubarb then you'd love this. My husband likes jerky and apparently is a pretty big fan of the taste of sweetened rhubarb. This was a HUGE win for me and I will definitely be making it again.

As for the severely overcooked part, funny story. I spread the pulp from the rhubarb cordial onto parchment paper on a cookie sheet. I placed it into a 170 degree oven to be left for 6 hours. I knew, I honestly knew that I would forget about it. But because my timing was poor, I planned to set a timer and wake up in the middle of the night to remove it from the oven. I did not. 

Instead I woke up in the morning, sat down at the blog to moderate comments and virtually right away SAM asked how the fruit leather turned out. Of course I jumped up from the computer and pulled it out of the oven about six hours later then I'd planned to. You'd think it'd have been horrid but it was quite edible just very much like jerky. I imagine that six hours would not have been long enough and it needed closer to 8 or 10 so, it was about 2 hours over cooked. Haha! Figures that when I totally decimate something it's the time my husband chooses to really really like it. Whatever, win win!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

I genuinely have like six or seven different blog posts swirling around in my head but they all seem incomplete so I leave you with only this:

Rhubarb cordial use #1
Swirled over top of plain yogurt (with some berries if you wish)

I always try and have organic plain yogurt in the house. I was making little Abe and myself a dessert yogurt this evening: strawberries, raspberries, plain yogurt and chocolate syrup. I left the chocolate syrup off of mine and swirled in some rhubarb cordial instead (just out of curiosity). I'm glad to report that it was very scrumptious.