September 30, 2010

it's all about me

One year ago today, after much hemming and hawing, I got up the courage to publish my very first blog post. My blog had been up and running for quite a while, thanks to the Fabulous Kelly over at Fabulous K Creative, but I was too scared to actually use it. I'm always a bit timid about the unknown, and this was a very big and potentially very public unknown.

To be honest, I thought there was a very good chance blogging would be like so many other projects I've tackled....start strong, but by the time a month passes, only a distant memory.

I thought I'd celebrate this milestone by sharing ten things about myself that you don't know.

Or need to know.

Or even want to know.

Actually, I've secretly been hoping someone would send me one of those "tell five/ten/a million things about yourself" tags, but sadly, no one ever has.

Don't worry though, I'm not taking it personally.

Okay, here we go.

1. I can drive an excavator. Impressive, right? Now it's important to note that I said I can drive an excavator, not operate an excavator. Because there is a big difference. I can drive the beast from point A to point B without incident, however getting it to do what I want beyond that is futile. Picture your toddler trying to get that very first Cheerio into his mouth and that's pretty much what happens when I try to pick something up with the claw-bucket thing. It's highly entertaining, yet kind of pathetic at the same time.

2. I eat almonds hand over fist. If I was stranded on a desert island and could only have one food, almonds would be it. I buy them at Costco and eat many, many handfuls a day. I eat them raw, even though I prefer them toasted. Here's why. If I toast them, I like them better and will eat more of them. If I don't toast them, I still eat a lot, but not as many as I would if they were toasted.

Don't even pretend that doesn't make sense to you.

It makes perfect sense.

It does make sense, doesn't it?

Because now that I see it written out, maybe not so much.

3. I have plenty of clothes, but I wear this hooded sweatshirt almost every single day.

(My hair and makeup people have the day off, hence the headless picture.)

(Why is my neck so wrinkly?)

It's perfect. The perfect size, the perfect length, the perfect weight, and definitely the perfect color. Plus, it says "Sunshine" on the back. I love it so much I even wore it on the plane when I flew to meet Jen, despite the fact that it now has huge holes in it.

Did you notice, Jen? I was obviously not too worried about your first impression of me, and it was a lost cause anyway considering I'd spent twelve hours on planes, but I'm still kind of hoping you didn't notice my holey sweatshirt.

Dear Gap,
Please make this exact sweatshirt again. I will buy twenty of them.

4. When I put on a light switch or outlet cover, the slot on the screw absolutely has to be perfectly up and down or the earth will surely stop rotating on its axis.

5. The very first outing I went on with my future mother-in-law and sisters-in-law was a craft night at their church. The tables had candles on them, and while leaning over to do my craft, my bangs caught on fire. I kept seeing these little black ashes drifting before my eyes, but had no clue what it was until someone said they smelled hair burning.
Just the perfect first impression you want to make on the new in-laws, don't you think?

Wow, did I say ten things? I think I'm going with five, because I'm out. I'm sure I'll think of more over the next year, so maybe we'll make it an annual event, but for now, there's nothing but a snowstorm swirling around in my head....white and very blank.

I have to say, blogging over this past year has been so much more fun than I ever thought it would be. It truly is a special community we all belong to and I've really enjoyed all the new friends I've made.

If you've never commented here before and feel like giving a shout out, I'd really love to meet you. And if not, I totally understand....before I started blogging, I was the biggest lurker out there. I never commented. Ever.

Thanks for sticking with me and making my first year of blogging better than I ever dreamed. Ya'll are the best blog buddies a girl could have.

September 29, 2010

meadow brook dairy

Months ago...June, I think...I got an email from Michelle at Between Cottage and Cabin. Michelle had found a vintage Meadowbrook Dairy milk bottle and wanted to know if she could send it my way.

Um, yes please, Michelle!

Isn't it just the cutest thing?

The fact that our little farm used to be a dairy back in the day makes this gift even more special.

It has had a prominent place in my kitchen since the day it arrived and has the privilege of being the second item in my Meadowbrook collection.

Thank you, Michelle for thinking of me! I love my Meadowbrook milk bottle.

Love it!

September 28, 2010

homemade mac and cheese

Word on the street is that mac and cheese season has officially arrived in blogland and as I'm always game for a little pasta throwdown, I'm going to throw my recipe in the ring. I actually have a whole list of unhealthy recipes I'm planning to share this fall and winter. I'm trying to decide if they get their own label in my side bar, something along the lines of *call your cardiologist* or *heart attack on a plate*. It's sad, but it's how we eat on a pretty regular basis. Gooey, cheesy, creamy, hearty, casseroley. That's how we roll. Throw in a salad a couple times a month, and we're good.

This recipe hails from my sister....a fabulous cook if there ever was one. It's a dangerous one for me to make because I eat twice as much as I should and end up in pain for the rest of the evening.'s worth it.

Macaroni and Cheese

2 cups macaroni - boil 8-10 minutes
6 T butter
4 1/2 T flour
2 1/4 C milk
6 slices American cheese
1 1/2 C shredded cheddar
1 tsp salt - adjust to your taste - we like things salty
1/4 tsp pepper

Melt butter in a large saucepan. Whisk in flour and stir till bubbly. Stir in milk and continue stirring until thickened. Add cheeses and salt and pepper.

Stir in cooked macaroni and place in a casserole dish.

2 slices bread, crumbled - I like to use whole wheat and I crumble it in the blender
1/2 cup grated parmesan
3 Tbs melted butter
Combine and spread over macaroni and cheese.

Bake 35-40 minutes at *350. I usually put foil loosely over the top for the last ten minutes or so as the topping gets pretty brown.

I also usually dice a ham steak and stir that into the macaroni and cheese. I get the ham steaks from Costco - they come in a three pack and are wonderful to have on hand in the freezer.

Oh, invisible friends, this is good stuff.

Serve with a Lipitor chaser and you're good to go.

September 27, 2010

i am have an island

Have I ever told you we have an island?

Well, we have an island.

Not a private Caribbean island like Johnny Depp, but an island is an island, right?

I'll let you decide that for yourself in just a minute.

But first, when I posted this photo....

I got some questions on how I captured the shot, so I thought I'd give you a few more details.

The bright blue sky combined with floaty areas of fog got me outside early that morning. It was really pretty, but I could tell the first couple pictures I took just didn't do it justice. If I exposed for the sun rays, the herb garden was very, very dark, and if I exposed for the garden, the sky was no longer pretty at all.

Not very impressive, right?

I turned around to snap the alfalfa field....again, much prettier in real life, but it didn't really make for a spectacular photo either.

When I turned back around, it was as though the heavens had opened up and amazingly enough, I was able to capture it fairly well.

Having the sun behind the tree helped me expose better for the whole scene than in the first picture above where the sun was straight ahead, and the sun was now starting to hit the flowers in the foreground which also evened out the lighting situation a bit.

It was purely a case of right place, right time.

I wandered around and snapped a few more, but nothing compared to that one shot.

I also wandered over to our island.

We usually refer to it as Eyesore Island - here it is last spring.

Lovely, yes?

In the past, I have tried in vain to turn it into something a little more easy on the eyes. Like the year I painstakingly sprayed all the weeds, watered and sprayed again and again, and then planted thousands and thousands of poppy seeds I had collected. It was going to be a pink and red and white oasis in the middle of the pond.

Poppy Island....a place where magic happens.

Well, the only magic that happened was the lightning speed at which the weeds took over once again. It was a complete failure and the poor flowers never had a chance.

This year, The Meadowbrook Farmer had the brilliant idea to cover it with landscape fabric to keep the weeds down, and plant the whole thing with pumpkins and gourds.

Voila - Pumpkin Island was born.

We are really happy with how the plants are doing.

So are the muskrats, or raccoons, or skunks or whatever nocturnal animal is eating all the pumpkins and gourds that are growing on the island.

Dear Eyesore/Poppy-not!/Pumpkin Island,

You are annoying.



September 24, 2010

the post that wasn't

When I flew to Indiana last week, I spent quite a bit of time in airports. Knowing I would have lots of time to kill, I had great plans to do a blog post while I waited.

I was going to show some photos I'd taken in the past month....

I was going to tell you how I brought an extra pair of socks so I could throw away the ones I wore through security. I hate walking sock-footed through security and then having to put my shoes back on.

And then I was going to tell you I was not as grossed out by my small town airport's flooring condition as I thought I would be, and I was brave and kept my socks.

However, as a follow up, I should probably tell you that I came home and washed my shoes, because they did have a little bit of airport security scunge in them.

I could feel it.

I was going to tell you that my goal in life is to avoid ever having to use an airplane restroom.

With three fairly short flights each way, I'm happy to say I achieved that goal.

I was going to tell you that the revolving seat covers in the restrooms in the Chicago airport are highly suspicious.

In case you've never been, the seats have a plastic wrap that revolves when you wave your hand over a sensor. I would imagine it's a great idea, but I (and I'm sure everyone else who has ever used one) really wondered if it just keeps recycling the same old plastic.

Maybe next time I pass through the Windy City, I'll take a sharpie, write my name on the plastic seat cover, and then see how many sensor hand waves it takes for it to come back around.

I'm going to sincerely hope it never comes back around.

So, between the seat cover obsession and the sock story, are you seeing a pattern here?

I was going to tell you that they don't even serve pretzels or peanuts on the airplane anymore. But they do let you buy overpriced snackboxes.


But.....after I'd spent my first two flights putting together the photos for the post, the Chicago airport internet let me down.

It kept telling me it would be back in a second, but it lied.

It's hard to upload photos and draft a post with no internet.

So here we are, almost two weeks later.

Not that it matters, because these faces were worth the wait, don't ya think?

September 22, 2010

a letter

Dear Man in Seat 40J on United Flight 938,

I enjoyed chatting with you as we flew from Denver to Chicago last week, and I feel compelled to write you a note as a follow-up to our conversation.

After you shared that you were returning home to Ohio from a trip to beautiful Telluride, Colorado, the conversation naturally turned to my destination. As I shared that I was off to Indiana to visit three friends for a week, you asked how I knew them and how long we'd been friends.

I know that the more I tried to explain, the more your confusion grew. As I told you that I was going to first spend time at the home of a girl I'd met on the internet,

but had never met in person, you just didn't understand.

You asked my why in the world my husband would let me jet across the country to meet a perfect stranger. You wondered if I'd let my own children do the very same thing.

Good. Points. All.

But somehow I just knew. I knew this girl was the real deal. I knew she was as fun and genuine and kind and special in person as I'd come to know her on her blog and through our email friendship.

I have to tell you....I was right. She welcomed me into her home like we'd been friends forever, and her family did everything they could to make me feel like I belonged there. I don't even think it was any kind of effort for them. They're just naturally that kind of people.

My kind of people.

As our conversation continued, I tried to steer things back to you and your job as a pilot.

But you were having none of that.

As you kept asking questions, it came out that not only was I meeting one virtual friend, but three. After spending a few days with Jen in her Cottage Nest, we would travel to Ohio to visit a huge Flea Market and to meet up with Jayme, The Coop Keeper,

and Shannan, the Flower Patch Farmgirl.

I could see what you were thinking. You were thinking, "Wow, she's meeting up with three potentially crazy internet predators. One was bad enough, but three?"

Well, 40J Man, let me set your mind at ease.

First, let me tell you about Jayme. As I'd gathered from her blog and our back and forth emails, this is a girl with a heart that's made of pure gold, a heart that's the size of the state of Indiana. Or the state of Texas, or quite possibly the entire United States. This was demonstrated in many ways, the least of which was the fact that she hauled half her kitchen, along with farm fresh eggs from her chickens, homemade bread and homemade syrup, to make a french toast breakfast in bed for all of us, hotel style.

Seriously. She brought her electric skillet and everything. To our hotel room in Ohio. We kind of thought she was joking, but girlfriend came through and we were so glad she did.

There's no doubt about it, the Coop Keeper is a keeper. A delight.

My time with Jayme was much too short-lived and I'm already looking forward to the day I will be visiting her house. We've already got a schedule and an agenda in the works.

After two days of the four of us eating, antique shopping and eating some more, Jen officially handed me off to Shannan and I spent the next three days at her lovely farm, surrounded by rolling farmlands, barns and silos as far as the eye could see, and Amish buggies with horses clip-clopping down the road. While the setting was as different as could be from Jen's village, one thing was exactly the same. I'd found yet another genuine and generous girl, with yet another genuine and generous family, that welcomed me into yet another lovely home like I belonged there. And this time I had the added bonus of getting some baby snuggling time, not to mention non-stop entertainment provided by one hilarious preschooler and engaging conversation with one awesome kindergartner, all intermixed with fun photography related talks with the famous Mr. Flower Patch Farmgirl himself.

Good. Times.

So your fears, while quite valid, were thankfully unfounded. And one rather ironic side note?......When you asked what brought us together, and I told you we were all, to a certain extent, photographers, (not quite the truth, but also not a lie - I just had a really strong feeling you wouldn't understand the blog world, and our two hour flight wasn't enough time to try and explain it anyway), little did I know that I would take hardly any photos of Jen's village or Shannan's countryside. And while I did take family pictures for my new friends, I took not a single picture of our girl time together. So much for the photographer angle, right?

To conclude, Man In Seat 40J on United Flight 938, this has become quite the novel, hasn't it? I do want to thank you for your concern. That was really very nice. And thank you also for providing me this opportunity to relive the amazing week I got to spend with my formerly virtual, but now real life Indiana friends.



September 10, 2010

the greenhouse

I was going to start this post with the tried and true "better late than never", but I seriously think it really might be too late. I've had all summer long to do a post about the greenhouse and it just hasn't happened.

It seems a bit silly to show pictures from greenhouse glory days gone by, when in reality, I am cutting back many of the beautiful flowers you are seeing in these photos and stashing them back inside the very building where they were born many months ago.

Fall is here with a vengeance in all its rainy, cold fallishness, so I'm getting a bit of a jump on tucking some of my flowered friends in for the winter.

Like these petunias. They no longer look like this.

I was a bad petunia mama and totally gave up fertilizing them about mid July. Petunias love their fertilizer and they are now so straggly and sad looking that I am giving them a major trim and hiding them inside where I don't have to look at them anymore.

Out of sight, out of bad petunia mama mind.

The zinnias, however, are an entirely different story. They are still going strong, blooming their little hearts out, and still hold the number one flower place in my heart.

I grew at least ten different varieties, and while I loved the mix, my old tried and trues, Magellan and State Fair, are still my favorites. I will definitely be growing a new favorite, Cactus, again as well.

(Cactus zinnias on the left and Magellan in the box on the right.)

This weekend will find us organizing and making space, so when that first frost heads our way, we can rush the plants we will over-winter to safety.

The tomatoes will have to squish together and make space for their winter roommates, then the perennials will be put to bed, and before we know it, we'll be saying a final garden goodbye.

Until next year, of course.

September 2, 2010

misty morning

This morning in the herb garden.

September 1, 2010

so long summer

Wow. September first - you snuck up on me!

While Fall lovers are rejoicing, Summer lovers, (yours truly), are in a bit of a panic. I know according to the calendar we have several weeks left, but in my book, summer starts June 1st and ends the last day of August.

What better way to say a fond farewell to my favorite season than with ice cream cones and a couple very cute little girls.

Now of course I'm hoping my old friend Indian Summer schedules an extended visit to my neighborhood, but for today, I will say a reluctant goodbye to the long, lazy days that make my heart sing.

p.s. Little fingers adorned with chippy blue polish also make my heart sing.