Monday, March 29, 2010

Spring Break

We are on our spring break right now and have decided to spend it like we do every year - at the beach! The kids were so super excited to get here, and I think my level of excitement almost matched theirs.

Friday morning we packed the car to the gills, so once the boys were done with art class, we could zoom off, and with only a few pit stops, we made it around dinner time. Jamey and Arthur exploded from the car and didn't come inside until dark. After unpacking, I joined them outside where we had fun throwing the Frisbee, playing a strange game of keep away golf involving 7 balls (and, I found I intensely like this form of golf!), and just being nutty in general. Later that night, when we were all snug in our beds, Big Jamey and Grandma Jill drove in to join the fun.

Saturday we started the day off right and went biking. There is a great trail starting about 126th St. north of Long Beach and going on down past Illwaco. We started at the beginning and biked to Beards Hollow where Jamey was proud to show off the cave he discovered. While Grandma was oohing and ahhing properly, a man walked by and said there was an even bigger and better cave around the back of the giant slab of rock. So, we all trucked around the back and sure enough, there was a very cool looking cave! It has a small opening and appears to blossom out into a larger room and maybe go on. Not having flashlights, we decided we would have to come back another time to check it out further.

Jamey was exhausted by the time we biked back to the cars. It was a 12 or so mile trip (can't remember exactly what Mom's odometer said) and that is the farthest he has ever done. Add to it all the dune hills and his bike not having gears to shift, I'm positive Jamey worked much harder than any of the rest of us. We are thinking that we will get him a better bike so he can continue to enjoy all the biking we plan for this year.

After lunch, we geared up to go clamming! Big James decided he didn't want to clam and became our spotter of holes. Arthur ended up being most excellent at finding holes and he caught four clams on his own. He probably would have caught more, but he was wrestling a clam gun that was almost his height and trying to pull up the volume of sand needed was quite the challenge for him. He went at it with gusto though and not once did he complain. Between the group, we gathered 13 clams!

On the way back to the house, we stopped and asked a very successful clammer why he was stomping on the sand. He was kind of enough to oblige us with some answers. He said you stomp the sand and it scares the razor clams. They will pull in their neck and this causes a dimple hole to appear in the sand. This looks different from the donought shaped holes we were going after. He also said that when you find a hole, you should face the ocean and angle your clam gun slightly towards the water, and you will be less likely to cut into your clam, which makes cleaning them much easier. So, armed with his advice, I think we will have better luck at catching clams.

Sunday morning was a bit lazier. James and Jamey were learning a King Arthur role playing game, while Arthur and Grandma played a new game outside where you try to take down the Frisbee with a golf club. They had to leave at lunch time and we were sorry to see them go.

After an equally relaxed afternoon of more outside play, we gathered up our gear to tackle round 2 of clamming. We got their early to give us more time to clam, which is critical if you are bringing kids into the equation. There is a lot of running around and exploring that needs to be down to make it a successful adventure. It began to rain, but we thought it was fun. It began to hail, which didn't hurt through all our layers of clothing, and it was quite exciting to see hail on the beach! Then the wind kicked up. That wasn't quite the thrill that you might expect. It blew so hard that Arthur could hardly walk against it. So, we decided to let the clams stay free from harassment and head back to the beach house.

By the time we got back, we were soaked to the bone. A warm bath, followed by a bowl of homemade clam chowder soon had us fit as a fiddle again.

That evening we had quite the windstorm. The boys were most excited about it and were hoping to lose power. We did not, much to my relief, but we were able to hear it blowing like mad through the night.

Now it is Monday morning. The boys are still in bed looking so sweet all sleep softened. Not sure what today will bring, but I am sure it will be fun!

Sorry no photos - my camera battery is dead and I was unable to locate the charger.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Flowers and Smoothies

We have been enjoying the onset of spring and I've been really pleased with the abundance of beautiful flowers coming up in my beds. Not being able to resist, I cut some to bring inside. They make me glad every time I glance at them, and the whole house smelled of hyacinth within the day.

Right after I arranged the flowers, the boys asked for a smoothie for breakfast. We are on a giant smoothie kick and have been having them once or twice daily. Lately, my confidence in enter the smoothie world has got me creating my own concoctions. I made up the smoothie below and the kids have named it Blue Moon. Here is the recipe if you wish to try it out.

1/3 cup frozen o.j. concentrate (from a 16 oz. concentrate tube)
1 c. water
1 banana
1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries

Put it all in a blender and blend.

That's it! Making them is so easy and is one of the reasons I'm addicted to them. I've been even experimenting by adding tofu, peanut butter, rice milk, etc. and believe it or not, most have turned out dynamite. Tasty, nutritious (or can be), and fast.

While I was making the above for our breakfast, Arthur was eying the flowers I put on the table and decided to do a bit of work on my arrangements. He added beads to the vases, brought out our egg holders and a bunny statue. Once he had it just so, I had to agree with him - it looked much nicer with his touches.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Patty Cookies

I love holidays. I like how they take an ordinary day, and make it more fun. St. Patrick's day could have easily slipped by unnoticed, so I had to do something to ensure that it got noticed. Hence, St. Patty cards for the boys left in Jamey's postal service, letting the kids pick out what they want for dinner, friends over for the afternoon, going for a family bike ride, and lastly - green cookies!

They are super easy to make and all the kids were charmed by the idea of eating them. I took my chocolate chip cookie recipe and simply added 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract and the green food coloring to the color I wanted.

I had to snap this photo fast as the cookies keep disappearing from the cooling rack. I think I have a tricky leprechaun or four in the house!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

the best looking sticky buns - ever

For Christmas, James got me the Grand Central Baking cookbook that I had been coveting ever since it hit the bookstores. After thoroughly perusing its contents, I put it away for using at a later date. Now, three months later, I decided the time had come to try the book out, and proceeded to make the Pecan Sticky Buns recipe. I am not much of a cinnamon roll gal, and the mall ones, in my opinion, should be banned on grounds of gastronomical torture. But these looked very intriguing. They have a cinnamon roll base that includes ingredients such as eight grain cereal and molasses, which is then topped with toasted pecans and caramel.

Jamey and I got the sticky buns assembled and in the fridge Saturday night, leaving only the baking for Sunday morning. We agreed that this would be a wonderful treat to start the morning off with, and were looking forward to sampling them with much anticipation. As they cooked the next day, Little Jamey enjoyed the aroma emitting from the oven and readily obliged us as a taste tester. The sacrifices this boy will make in the pursuit of knowledge for mankind is staggering! Arthur didn't want any until he saw Jamey's and then quickly changed his mind.

The results - Big Jamey claimed they were fantastic, groaning and making facial expressions of pure delight, and the boys seemed pleased too. I, myself couldn't taste a thing - not a single flavor - due to being completely congested with a head cold. After the first few bites, I gave up altogether and left my sticky bun discarded on the plate. Visually, however, I got to enjoy it to my eyeballs' fill. And I have to say, they looked mighty good.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

chicks for my chicks

Earlier this year, my kids got on a kick of wanting to be farmers - taking it as far as asking for their own area of land to farm and spending hours digging and planning on that spot. They also asked for chicks - their own chicks, which they would be responsible for. After much debate - alright I admit it, no more debate than it took me to draw in a breath - I said yes! Of course they can have their own chicks. What a great way to learn about caring for other creatures, and being given responsibility, etc etc.

Trust me, I can justify buying chicks until the cows come home.

Immediately, Jamey started reading my book on chicken care and soaked it up like a just released Harry Potter book. He informed me that I wasn't doing some things as well as I could be, and has earnestly worked on rectifying the living conditions of the chickens. Taking his concerns to heart, I have now elevated their water off the ground and am giving them fresh water daily instead of replacing it when it gets low. I'm sure my ladies appreciate his earnestness.

So, armed with knowledge, both boys picked the breeds of chicks they wanted and we worked out a pick up date when both types would be at the store simultaneously so I wouldn't have to worry about integrating two batches of different aged chicks.

Jamey decided he wanted to Bantams based on two facts. 1) He read that Bantams make excellent mothers, and he has high hopes of raising his own little flock. 2) He learned that the Bantam chicks are sold as a straight run, thus increasing his chances to get a rooster which will help him with the first reason he chose Bantams.

Arthur decided on Golden Laced Wyandottes because: 1) they give eggs and 2) they sound pretty - golden and edged with a greenish black.

Off we went to the store on March 2nd to get 4 chicks - two for each boy. When we got their, much to Jamey's great disappointment, the Bantams weren't there. Apparently there had been an unknown delay in shipping, and we would have to come back for them. Arthur's were there so we decided to go ahead and purchase them as they seemed to be going fast. And, as I couldn't resist, I picked up some chicks too!

So, here are the chicks. Arthur's are in the front right hand corner. There are also two Barred Rocks and a Buff Orpington. One of the rocks is in the back asleep on it's side. Don't worry, this chick is hale and hearty - it just liked this position for the first few days.

Now, to get Jamey's chicks. We went back to the store every time we were in town only to find that the Bantams still hadn't come in. Well, yesterday our luck changed! The Bantams had arrived and Jamey had such a hard time deciding, but finally decided on the smallest and the largest that they had.

And, when I overheard the worker saying all chicks were 50 cents off, my last resistance faded, and I popped four more chicks in with Jamey's! Argghhhh! I didn't need them, I really didn't! But, I was already very weak from the kryptonite these chicks were emitting onto my will and when I heard the discount and thought to myself "Good deal - that's a good deal", well - what can I say - the dead is done.

Of course, this meant setting up another container, heat lamp etc for this second batch of chicks. I had planned on throwing them all together, but the worker advised against it and Jamey was panicked about anything happening to his chicks. When I brought them home, I was surprised how much smaller they were than my first batch chicks, and that pretty much sealed the deal. Here is the second batch. Jamey's two are in the bottom left corner. The others are two Golden Sex Links and two California Whites.

This makes a grand total of 11 chicks. I am going to have to avoid the feed store like a plague for the rest of spring so I don't succumb anymore.

Monday, March 8, 2010

We Gained a Visit

This weekend, the Gaines family came to visit us. It was great catching up with everyone and watching the cousins all play together. I loved all the commotion caused by my boys and the three older children of John and Amy as they got to know each other. And while the children played and the adults talked, I got to snuggle their sweet baby boy. Little Ezekiel was pretty much monopolized by me during the visit. Here he is posing for his portrait while I am holding him.

Amos is relaxing from all the activity here.

As usual, whenever we have company, my boys get pretty amped up.

Sunday morning, Arthur and Malachi read together while sweet Ellie observed.
All in all, much fun was had, and we enjoyed ourselves very much.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Welcome Little Wyatt

Our friends just had a baby boy named Wyatt. We went to visit them this week and see how everyone is doing. Jamey couldn't wait to hold the baby, who is four days old in this photo. He has always liked babies and is incredibly gentle and patient with them. Later after the visit Jamey was talking about how much he liked cuddling the baby and then stated "Babies are just like chicks - if you feed them and hold them, they'll follow you anywhere".

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

back in the saddle

This weekend we went biking! We went on a very low key path in the Salmon Creek area with lots of wetlands and wildlife to look at. At the end of the ride, we came to a park where the boys played on the toys and roller-skated. Due to a knee injury, it has been about a year since I last biked (and an entire winter before that ride). But, faithfully following knee strengthening exercises, this bike ride was pain free.

I am now very excited to continue easing back into our biking regime. We want to start with three rides a week - two after Grandma Jill and James get off work during the week, and one longer one on the weekend. It feels terrific getting to do something that I really loved again!