Thursday, June 28, 2012

Easy Iced Coffee

I have a bit of an iced coffee problem these days (see exhibit A, above). Luckily for my wallet, I prefer McDonald's iced coffee - - it is much cheaper (and tastes better) than Starbucks, in my humble opinion. Still, every time I buy one, I feel kind of guilty. I have made iced coffee with my Keurig in the past, but the K-cups specifically for iced coffee are too expensive, and hot coffee + ice cubes = very watery iced coffee.

Yesterday, I rememberd that Pioneer Woman did a post last year about making your own iced coffee, so I decided to look through her archives. Off to the store I went for supplies, and got down to business.

Pioneer Woman's recipe uses two gallons of water and a pound of coffee, but I didn't have a container big enough to mix that much in, so I halved the recipe and made just one gallon of concentrate. I recycled one of our gallon water jugs which worked out perfectly. I poured half the bag of ground coffee into the jug, and then filled the rest of the jug with spring waterThen, I let it sit at room temperature for about 8 hours.

When it was done steeping, I strained the coffee concentrate from the grounds, per Pioneer Woman's instructions. Then, it went into the fridge to chill overnight.

I decided to try Vietnamese iced coffee (using sweetened condensed milk as a sweetener). First, I filled my reusable cup with ice. then I filled it half-way with coffee concentrate. Next, I added 2 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk, and a good splash of half and half. I went to stir it and of course, all of the ice cubes had fused together! So, I grabbed a cocktail shaker, poured everything in it, and gave it a good shaking. Everything got mixed, and it was actually nice and frothy when I poured it back into my cup. I think I will use this method from here on out!

The verdict? It is really, really good iced coffee. I wasn't sure that I would like it, but I actually love it. I'm so excited! Total cost? $8.67 for the coffee and the sweetened condensed milk (I always have half and half on hand so I didn't count that). I used approximately 1 cup of concentrate, and there are 16 cups in a gallon, so I should get about 16 iced coffees per batch. That works out to about 54 cents per coffee, as opposed to $2.11 at McDonalds. Yay!

As far as using sweetened condensed milk instead of sugar to sweeten the coffee? I really liked that, too. I had never heard of doing that before but I am glad I gave it a try. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Best Buddies

I think I have mentioned before that I got my wish for a lap cat when Smokey joined the family. She has a need for daily lap time and I love it. Roy is not exactly affectionate, and on the rare occasion that he is, he only wants to sit with Steve. Go figure. Anyway, Smokey is particularly fond of Griffin. She likes to crawl in bed with him in the morning and get a snuggle in before the day starts. She tends to be a little bossy too - - if she jumps up in your lap and doesn't like frequency (or lack of frequency, to be more specific) in which you are supplying strokes to her head, she will gently clamp her teeth onto your hand as a way of telling you to pick up the pace. This kitty is all personality and I am glad she found us.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Weekend Wrap-Up

Camden decided not to have a birthday party this year, but instead, have his best friend Treyson come over for a "Best Friends Day". They requested a birthday cake that looked like a yellow Lego brick, and they wanted to make their own pizzas, which they did. They also did some swimming and lots and lots of Lego-ing!

On Friday night we had a lovely dinner with our good friends across the alley, who are, unfortunately for us, moving to Boise. We will miss them so much!
My live-in handyman made the girls' day when he reparied their coop ramp.

I was very happy to pack (and use) my retro overnight bags for a much-needed getaway to Boise with Steve!

We stayed at the super-cool Modern Hotel in the linen district. Fabulous food and even better company!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Camden Turns Nine

Somehow, my sweet baby boy has gone and turned 9 years old. I just can't believe it. I really don't know where these last 9 years have gone. I certainly hope the next 9 don't pass as quickly. The boys and I have spent much of today around the dining room table. Camden was told yesterday that he would be getting the much-coveted Lego Queen Anne's Revenge kit in the mail today (a result of Steve and I waiting until the last minute to go to the store and purchase it, which led to us having to order it from Amazon with overnight shipping! Camden has been asking for this particular item for at least 6 months straight, never wavering in his wish. So, we had to do what we had to do! Needless to say, Camden spent most of the morning sitting and waiting for the UPS man to arrive. This Lego kit is huge, and I estimated that it would take him 4-5 hours to put together, but here we are, 2 1/2 hours in, and he is just about finished. That boy is a Lego whiz.


Griffin deserves some sort of reward for being an awesome brother today. He has been sitting here, next to Camden, barely saying a word and watching patiently. If you know Griffin at all, then you know that it was no small feat! I am hoping to get these two outside and air them out shortly. However, Uncle Kevin tells me that the FedEx man will be arriving this afternoon with something for Cam. I don't think I will mention that to Camden though...we'll just let him be surprised when he knocks at the door!

Tonight will be Camden's favorite dinner, followed by some cake and ice cream and a family party. So glad that Nana and Papa are here to celebrate with him! Camden decided against having a "friend" party this year - - he has instead chosen to have his best friend Treyson come over for a full day of playing. I have a bunch of fun things planned for the two of them, so it should be a great day! Happy Birthday, buddy! We love you so much!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Weekend Wrap-Up

Camden got to witness his mother acting like a sissy on the ferris wheel

Everyone loves the super slide!

One of my entries in the Cherry Bake-off

My boys on Father's Day

  • So glad I got to spend Father's Day with my own Dad!

We had a very busy end-of-last-week and weekend! The Cherry Festival started last Wednesday, and we had lots of fun. After that wound down on Saturday night, we had a lovely Father's Day on Sunday. We went on a drive up to Sagehen Reservoir with my parents, had a picnic lunch, fished, and did a little walking around. The weather was perfect and we all had a great time.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Small Town Excitement

Big excitement last night, when my neighbor's gigantic tree just up and fell over - - snapped off at the base. Turns out it was so rotten on the inside that it kind of shattered in spots when it hit the ground. It fell clear across the road and into another neighbors' yard. This happened a little after 10 at night, which was a blessing in disguise because typically the street that it fell across is full of kids riding bicycles after dinner time. It made a tremendous sound when it fell, which brought people out of their houses, up and down the block. Can you tell I live in a small town?

 The boys found the whole thing very exciting. We were about to get in the pool this afternoon when Camden heard a very loud noise and exclaimed, "That sounds like a wood chipper! We have to go and see!" So off we went, where the boys proceeded to sit on the sidewalk and watch the wood chipper do its thing for over 20 minutes, just like it was a television. Love those two!

In other news, we are loving the Summer Reading Program at our local library this summer. The theme is "Summer Science". Yesterday was "CSI and Police Science". We got to meet Dakota, our little city's police dog. He is a border collie mix and he is the neatest dog ever. It was fun to see him demonstrate how he does his job.

The Cherry Festival kicked off today. We did a little exploring and decided what we want to do when we go on Friday. The boys are anxious to go on rides, play some games, and eat some carnival food. I really love this time of year. I myself am looking forward to the Cherry Bake-off on Saturday. Here's hoping my recipes will be winners!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Lovely Summer Day

Camden still loves to snuggle with Nana

Dinner al favorite!

Bucket of boys

Monday was such a nice day. The weather is on the upswing once again, after a terribly cold week last week. I am going to enjoy this week for all it is worth, because next week it is supposed to be in the mid-90's and we will all be complaining that it is too hot!

I had hoped to get more accomplished on my to-do list yesterday, but there is always today and perhaps I will get caught up. We are loving that my parents are here in Idaho, spending time at their new little house, just a 5 minute walk from our house. They have done so much to it in the short time they have been here. I am looking forward to writing a blog post about it, once it is ready for the Big Reveal. Mostly I just like knowing that we can see them whenever we want to - - that after dinner we can hop on our bikes and ride over to their house if we feel like it. It makes me happy that the boys can be with them - - they love Nana and Papa and they are so lucky to have this time with them.

Last night Mum and Dad came over for dinner on the patio and it was such an enjoyable evening. The temperature was perfect, the company was great -- what more can you ask for?

Steve is in Arkansas this week for work. We will be glad when he comes home because he won't have to do any traveling for a while. The Cherry Festival begins on Wednesday so the boys are beside themselves with excitement. I really do love this time of year. Just wish summer would slow down a little already - - it seems like it is speeding by!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Full Hearts

The boys, opening a care package from Emily and Neil on Saturday.

Sometimes, I lose my focus and find myself dwelling on people in my life that strive to bring me down. People who hurt me for no other reason than the fact that they themselves are horribly insecure and unhappy. I think we all can get down about things like that from time to time. Luckily, it is an infrequent occurrence for me, and even better still - - I really have very few people like that in my life. Thank goodness, I am finally at a point where I am realizing that you give negative people power when you feed into their negativity. It is a choice, my friends.

The flip side to this is that I am very, very blessed indeed. My family is. This has been proven to me, time and again by the angels in our life. People I can't even believe we are lucky enough to know and love. This love has been shown to me, for no particular reason, and during times when we are needing it the most.

When I was growing up in Topsham, I had a neighbor on Barrows Drive named Emily. We rode the same bus to school together. Sometimes we played together after school. Then came junior high and high school, and I'm sure we still rode the same bus and passed each other in the hall, but I don't really have memories of that. I have not seen her in person in over twenty years, and probably haven't had a face-to-face conversation with her in well over thirty.

Fast-forward to the age of Facebook, where Emily and I connected, and then reconnected. She, along with her husband Neil, blessed the boys and I with such kind words and gestures while Steve was in Iraq. They took particular interest in the boys. Emily told me once in an email, that "everyone deserves to have someone admire them from afar, just for being who they are." I cannot begin to tell you what this has meant to me, and what it has meant to the boys. They talk about Emily and Neil on a regular basis, like they are old friends -- I just love it. I remember one time when Griffin said, from the back seat of the truck, out of the blue, "Mom, Emily and Neil really love me."

I believe certain people come into our lives (or back into our lives) for specific reasons. Emily and Neil have shown me that love and kindness comes in many forms, and to have that in your life is a true blessing.  We love you, Emily and Neil!

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Thrift Store Score

I have mentioned here, many times before, that I love thrift stores. My mom tells me that the Idaho thrift stores are far better than the ones in Maine...I wonder why that is? Do we have better junk in Idaho? Or do Idahoans just let go of their junk, more easily than Mainers? Hmmm.

Anyway, there is a thrift store just a couple of blocks from our house, and the boys and I check it out on a regular basis. I seem to have a knack for stumbling upon the craziest thrift store finds, but that is another post in of itself. Stay tuned for that one.

So, the boys and I were out running errands the other day when we decided we would take a spin through the thrift store. So glad we did! While I was looking at dishes (the section I always go to first!) I heard Camden say, "Um, Mama? Come see this!!" Up on a top shelf was what I believed to be an interactive R2D2 robot. The boys were about coming out of their shoes. The price tag? $8.50. A bit more than I like to spend on something at a thrift store, but I knew a little bit about this particular item, as I am the mother of a couple of Star Wars Freaks, after all. I asked the clerk if it worked, and she assured me that it did. So, we made our purchase and headed home. I promptly fired up my computer and found that this little guy costs $199.95 new! Our final cost? $11.50 (after purchasing the 8 batteries it needed to operate, at the dollar store).

Now, I have to tell you that even I am amazed by this thing. It is the craziest toy I have ever seen. Essentially, it is a robot, and it understands 40+ voice commands. It struggles to understand children's voices (too high-pitched), but the boys have pretty much mastered getting it to respond. Completely hilarious!

Friday, June 08, 2012

Home for a Visit

Thursday, June 07, 2012

An Update on Our Girls

Our beloved Bertie moved out this past Sunday. He went to live on a lovely little farm nearby, where he can crow his little rooster lungs out, and lord over eleven lovely hens. We were sad to see him go, but it had to happen, and it was just in the nick of time. He went from a couple of weak crows in the morning, to crowing whenever he felt like it. He was also getting a little bossy with the girls. We had the opportunity to replace him with a new hen, but in the end, the boys decided that they wanted to stick with the three we already have. A good choice, I think!

Stella, Nan, and Butterscotch have adjusted seamlessly. I dare say, they are even more laid back than they were before Bertie left. We have been spending lots of time with them. Griffin tells me that now that Bertie is gone, Stella is his new "best chicken".

The girls love a nice spinach and watermelon salad for a treat. I let them have time to free range during the day, but I need to clip their flight wings before I let them do too much more of that. They are slippery little suckers once they are loose!

So life is good here on our little urban farm. Can't wait for egg production to begin, probably sometime in September, I'm guessing.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Sweet Succulents

I am currently having a bit of an obsession with succulent plants.  I just find them fascinating. There is such a wide variety and every time I see a new one, I want it! This is my little collection of succulents right now. I am going to stick with these and see if I can keep them alive before I go adding any more to the bunch. In the back left corner is a type of aloe plant called a Crocodile. The neat thing is, it grows "babies", much like Hens & Chicks. Next to the Crocodile is a recently repotted Hen from the little plant my mom gave me last year. It mass-produced babies over the past few months, and I separated bunch of them the other day, put some in bigger pots, started a couple of new pots, and gave some away. Front right corner is a jade plant. I am a little nervous about this one because I had a jade plant years ago, and I promptly killed it. Hopefully I will have better luck with this one. The most interesting one by far is front and center. This is called a Split Rock. It is native to Africa and as you can see, it almost looks like a little rock. These are actually a pair of succulent leaves, called a bi-lobe. In between the split, a new bi-lobe is growing. Eventually, the bigger bi-lobe will shrivel up and die, and the new one will take over. I have done a lot of reading on this particular plant, and it makes me nervous too -- they are easy to kill but I am determined not to! In the left front corner is a little succulent bowl...not really sure what the plants are, but I thought it was pretty.

Succulents are readily available at Home Depot and Lowes, and they are quite inexpensive. I have also found them at local garden stores and nurseries.  

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Mom School 2012

Mom School 2012 kicked off yesterday. Last year, I used Scholastic workbooks, which I really liked. This year, I decided to go with Summer Bridge Activities books, and I am so glad I did - - they are fabulous! The books have three sections, with 20 worksheets each. Each worksheet covers more than one subject, which I think holds their interest better. These particular workbooks also put some focus on physical fitness and character, which I just love. Like last year, we are going to have "school" every weekday morning at 9:00. We are also incorporating into this time, to make sure both boys get their reading practice in every day.

Last year, the boys would fill a sticker chart each week, and at the end of the week they got to choose a dollar store prize from my prize box at the end of each week. This year, the boys chose instead to forgo the weekly little prizes, and instead will earn a trip to Build-a-Bear Workshop at the end of the summer, when they have completed all of their work  - - something they have both wanted to do for a very long time.

We will certainly have days where Mom School will be met with groans and protest, but for the most part the boys enjoy it, and I do, too. I'd like to think that it helps keep them on track and helps them to start the school year off more smoothly. Don't worry, we definitely have lots of time for summer time fun, too!

Monday, June 04, 2012

Sweet Pea and Parmesan Crostini

It has been pretty warm around these parts lately, and when the weather is like this, I don't feel like eating anything hot at dinner time. Things that appeal to me are pasta or potato salad, fresh basil, mozzarella, and tomato on crostini, or a plain old bowl of cereal. I saw this recipe not too long ago here, and then I saw a similar recipe featured on the Food Network. Since I had the ingredients on hand, I thought I would give it a try. I made mine a little differently in that I pulsed all of the ingredients in a food processor - - enough to chop it all up nicely, but not enough to make it mushy. I also just toasted my baguette slices in the toaster oven.

The verdict? This recipe is a keeper. It was just what I was hoping it would be - - light, fresh, and satisfying. I'm anxious to try the leftover spread tomorrow night, when the flavors have had a day to meld. The next time I make it, I may add a bit more basil, and might even throw in a little garlic. Yum!

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Cub Scout Day Camp 2012

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of taking Camden and one of my other Cub Scouts, Patrick, to Cub Scout Day Camp. We had so much fun! My mom came along as my other Walking Leader, and it was great to get to spend the day with her. Thanks for you help, Mum! The theme of this year's camp was "Quest for Excalibur!", and there were so many great activities!

Here are the boys at their first station, which was "Storming the Castle". They made catapults, which they got to take home.

The second station was kickball, which didn't seem to be overly popular! It was pretty darn hot out, and I think most of these boys must play baseball. Kickball's rules are almost opposite of baseball (no stealing base, no sliding, no throwing people out), so everyone seemed kind of confused by the whole thing.

Next came Heraldry, where the boys designed their own shields for battle. Camden loved this activity because he loves to draw.

As you can imagine, Archery was high on everyone's list. Camden and Patrick did a great job, although Camden did inform me that it was harder than it might have looked!

This station was called "DaVinci's Workshop", which was simple machines. Camden told me that this one was one of his most favorite. The boys tried using pulleys and levers and different methods of lifting heavy objects. My mom and I got a kick out of how intently Cam payed attention to the presentation!

This station was called "Squire Training" and it was Patrick's favorite. It was a really neat medieval obstacle course.

Next came "Leather", where the boys got to do some stamping on a small piece of leather. They also got to try their hand at calligraphy, using a quill pen at this station.

This station was called "Page Academy" and the boys got to try different Minute-to-Win-It type games.

Last but certainly not least, BB Gun Shooting. Camden was thrilled about this one, and he had pretty good aim!

We had a great time, earned lots of achievements for the coming year of Scouting, and I am quite sure we will be participating again next year!

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Yellow Belt

Earlier this week, Camden participated in his first test in karate. He has been taking karate for the past school year at our local rec center, and his instructor, Mike, is just wonderful. Camden is more of an "individual sport" type of boy, and although karate has been a lot of hard work for him, he has done a wonderful job. This has meant practice two nights per week, often times when he was tired from school and not wanting to go. He stuck with it though, and was awarded his yellow belt. It was so much fun to be there for his testing, and we are so proud of him!

Friday, June 01, 2012

Farewell, Bertie

Bertie, strutting his awesome rooster-ness

I should have known, when, at about five weeks of age, one of my Dominique chicks had the beginnings of a pink comb, when nobody else did. If truth be told, I think I knew in my heart that he was a rooster back then, but I really didn't want to admit it, so I didn't. Then came the deep red color, more comb growth, and the addition of waddles. Not even a hint of these on any of his coop mates. Last week, his tail feathers started to take on a different appearance. Then, three days ago, the tell-tale call of the rooster...only Bertie prefers to leave out the "doodle" and calls out, "Cock-a-doo!".

We are quite heavy-hearted here on our little "imaginary" farm - - we just love Bertie. The boys and I chose to hand-raise our chicks, spending time holding each of them, feeding them by hand, etc., so that they would be tame, and tame they are. Oddly enough, Bertie is the most tame of them all, and is the one I usually pick up when I get the urge to go hug a chicken. I will be sad to see him go.

Go he must, because we live within city limits, and roosters are not allowed here. Furthermore, having a rooster on the premises will interfere with my end-goal of farm-fresh eggs, just a bit - - not interested in having someone in the coop who is trying to fertilize those eggs, if you catch my drift.

Now comes the fortunate part. My friend Alyce, who also happens to be my boss a the library, has a little farm nearby, beyond the city limits. She has offered to take Bertie in, as it just so happens that she was in the market for a new rooster to care for her flock of hens. Even better, she will be giving us a New Hampshire Red/Speckled Sussex cross pullet in exchange. Her pullets are about the same age as mine, so we are hoping we will be able to integrate her into my flock without much trouble.

We are going to enjoy our Bertie for the next couple of days, before he packs his teeny-tiny bags and flies the coop. I'm certain he will have a wonderful time on Alyce's farm, but we will miss him!
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