Sunday, October 27, 2013

Baby in the Leaves

Prince Charming was the hardest kid to catch a portrait of this evening.  He had a tendency to do this whenever I came near him with the camera and he wasn't quite as smiley and agreeable as usual (I think that has something to do with finally leaving church at 5 pm...) 



But I have been looking at him lately and thinking about how quickly he is growing and I have been saying to myself, "I need to take more pictures of this adorable baby."  So I persisted with the camera this evening and after lots and lots of duds got a handful of nice pictures. 
 
 
 


It was his first time crawling through such a thick carpet of crunchy leaves.  At first he didn't like them, but after awhile he decided they were pretty cool and I finally got a few smiles out of him.
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Autumn Portraits

This evening when we came out of church there was a golden light spilling over our little corner of the world.  The children ran over to a tree next to the church that they love to climb.  Today the tree was alight with the glory of autumn, a crispy carpet of freshly fallen leaves underneath.   I watched my little people climb and romp and fling leaves about and I was just so grateful to be alive and be experiencing that moment. 

And then I remembered I had the camera in the car!


 
 
 
 
 
 
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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Kitchen Organization

When we were first married I would move into a new apartment and I would look at the kitchen cupboards and all my kitchen stuff and feel this sense of hopeless incompetence.  I knew there was an absolutely brilliant way to arrange everything in the cupboards but I didn't know what it was.  I would fill up the cupboards but I never felt like I had really gotten it "right." 

Now that I've done the "unpacking in a new kitchen" thing... let's see... twelve times... I am finally starting to feel confident facing an empty kitchen and a stack of boxes.   It's always different based on the kitchen and cupboard layout but I know now how I like to put things together.  It may not be the most perfect way to organize a kitchen but it works for me. 

The first thing I do is identify the "bread station."  This starts with the toaster's spot on the counter as near to the eating area as possible.  In the cupboard up above the toaster I put the honey, the peanut butter, and other things we like to eat on toast, such as cinnamon and coconut oil.  Then I leave room for the bread itself. 



The silverware drawer goes right underneath the bread station.  This way people making toast have everything they need and can get what they need and take it to the table without getting in the way of anyone who might happen to be cooking. 




Next I find a Baking Station.  This is the place where my Kitchenaid mixer lives.  In the cupboard above it goes everything I need to make bread, cookies, muffins, etc.  In some houses like in Oklahoma the flour, oatmeal, sugar, salt, baking powder, vanilla, cinnamon, raisins, etc. all fit very neatly in one cupboard so I was able to just open it and go to town. The layout for the cabinets in this house makes it not quite as neat-- stuff is a little spread out over three adjacent cabinets, and our vitamins and supplements are also in one of those cupboards, but I can still stand in one spot by the mixer and reach everything I need.  The fridge is right next door for eggs, butter, milk, or whatever, and the baking pans are in the cupboards below.  Once the item is in the pan I only have to make one trip across the kitchen to put it in the oven. 


My Vitamix is next to my Kitchenaid because I like the Vitamix next to the fridge.  I make a lot of smoothies and that's where the smoothie ingredients are.  And at the moment there is a microwave there too, but that is temporary.  I don't like microwaves and I tend to keep mine in really strange places like the laundry room or the garage.  Once it was even in the bathroom.  That would be gross if we used it a lot, but we almost never do. 

So, anyway, my spice cupboard is next to my stove because that's where I use spices.  And I have turntables to put everything on.  I really don't know how people function without turntables for their spices: trying to dig through all those little bottles to get what's at the back.... ugh.  I was dismayed to find that my turntables don't fit on the bottom shelves of the cabinets in this kitchen, so I just put a few of the bigger and/or most frequently used items on the bottom.  I sorted my spices by how often I use them.  Frequently-used things like basil and oregano go on the lower turntable where it's a little easier to see and access.  Stuff I use rarely like coriander goes up top. 


I used to put all my baking and cooking spices together, probably because they all come in similar bottles.  It finally dawned on me that I could separate them, and even move the nutmeg, ginger, cloves, etc. to the baking station on the other side of the kitchen because I rarely need them when I'm cooking at the stove.  Salt was the one thing I needed in both places, but I solved that problem by having two containers of salt: one for each cupboard.  Same with cinnamon.  My kids like it on their toast, so there's one cinnamon container in the bread cupboard and another one in the baking cupboard. 

With everything else I try to put it near where it is used the most.  The drawer closest to the kitchen sink gets the peelers and the apple cutter.  I usually have a small drawer devoted entirely to measuring cups and spoons and that goes by the baking station.  (I am currently trying to train my kids to keep one set of measuring spoons in the spice cupboard by the stove, but I don't know that they'll catch on to that.)  Hot pads go-- wait for it!-- in the drawer next to the oven.  Am I shockingly brililant or what?


I always have one lower drawer or cupboard where I put plastic kid dishes.  This allows the little kids to not only have access to a plate or bowl when they need one but to learn to help unload the dishwasher at a younger age. 

In this kitchen I have three large drawers on my island.  The top one got prep tools and then I had the brilliant idea to put plastic lids in one and containers in the other.  At some point I am going to put in a divider in that middle drawer because the lids could all fit quite happily in just half of it and then I would have some more space. 
 


So now you know more than you ever wanted to know about my kitchen cupboards.  I hope you're very, very inspired.  Have a nice day!
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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bucket Full of Charming

 
 
 


(And yes, depending on the light I get a LOT of comments from people about the strawberry tint to his hair.... people also said that about Peanut at this age and it went away, so I don't dare hope, but I would love it if his hair really did turn out strawberry blonde!)
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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Yay for Bulk Molasses!

Recently I discovered a store in town that sells molasses in gallon jugs.  I can't even tell you how excited I am about this. 



Not only do I like to put molasses in homemade bread, one of our favorite recipes uses a lot of it: Gingerbread.  When the weather is cold, gingerbread is a frequent and favorite treat because it is relatively healthy.  The kids get all excited about it, but they don't get all sugared up after eating because it's sweetened only with molasses!  Win!
 
 


I paid about $23 for that gallon of molasses, which is significanly less than when I could only buy it in small bottles at the grocery store.  I am curious to see how long a gallon of molasses lasts us.  As you can see, we've already used quite a bit of it in just a couple weeks. 
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Friday, October 11, 2013

The Pumpkin Patch

I can't even begin to put into words how much I love pumpkin patches.  When I am out in a field full of pumpkins with my family I feel thoroughly and completely happy.  I just love to be out in any field full of something growing, and pumpkins are particularly friendly and jolly and exciting.  Throw my own adorable and excited kiddos in the mix, and you have Birrd Nirvana. 



In my mind we go to the pumpkin patch every fall as a beloved annual tradition, but as I thought about it this time I realized that we've only gone three out of the last seven years.  Well, now we are here in this new place and we've found a wonderful pumpkin patch not far away, so as long as we're here we ARE going to go every year. 

There was nothing overly fancy about this pumpkin patch, but it was just how I like it best.  We rode out to the field in a hay wagon pulled by a tractor.  Then we actually picked our own pumpkins right off the vine (the last two patches we visited wouldn't let you actually pick them yourselves!)  
 
 
 
 


We loaded them back onto the wagon and rode back to the big barn, where there were a few tables set up for people to enjoy a cookie and a cup of hot chocolate.  



 


We said "hi" to a few goats and chickens (good memories!) and got our picture taken.


We were out of there in about an hour and a half, and the whole thing cost way less than the huge agri-tainment complexes we've seen in other places we've lived.  Those are fun too, but I like this much better. 

So now we have ten pumpkins on our porch.  I told everyone to choose One Pumpkin, but somehow when we got back to the barn there were nine.  No one will admit to choosing two, but I don't mind.  They only charged me three bucks for the extra, and I'm totally going to make pies with ALL of these!  (Pumpkin Number Ten is the one the Rabbit brought home from her field trip a couple weeks ago.) 


(How come she does that when I pull out the camera?  Who taught her that???  Don't answer that.) 
 
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Cranking Apples

I have one of those nifty apple peeler/slicer/corer thingies.  I love it to death.  My kids always want to help me with it, but I usually say no because it can be a little bit tricky to operate.  You have to have the apples positioned just right and you've got to watch it closely as you turn the crank.  However, my tenacious Rabbit waited until my back was turned and then proved to me that she could run the thing just fine, thank you very much. 



Give this kid five more years and she'll totally be running my kitchen for me.  It's going to be great. 
 
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A New Way to Sit in the High Chair

 
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In Which I Bake a Cookie Cake




We like to have the missionaries from our church over for dinner fairly often. Right now we have Sister Missionaries (women) assigned to our ward (congregation) and we think they are extraordinary and we all just love to have them over. We have especially grown fond of one of them who has been serving in our area for several months.  So when she called to confirm our dinner appointment and mentioned that it was her birthday, I decided we were going to have a little bit of a party for her. 

She had mentioned that she really liked chocolate chip cookies, and so I thought, "Aha!  I will bake a cookie cake!"  I make fabulous chocolate chip cookies, so I figured it wouldn't be hard.  I wanted to know if there were any special tricks I needed to know about, so I got online and read through a few recipes.  They were all about the same, and about the same as my chocolate chip cookie recipe. 

I mixed up the dough and it was absolutely perfect.  It looked and smelled heavenly.  I spread it out on my pizza stone, leaving what I thought was an adequate margin around the edge for the dough to expand a little bit.  Well, it wasn't an adequate margin...



I went to go feed the baby for a few minutes and when I came back into the kitchen there was smoke pouring from the oven and a huge mess inside.

Luckily, the part of the dough that stayed on the pizza stone was in pretty good shape, so we just pulled the burnt edges off and got to work decorating.  My girls did most of the decorating/tasting:

 
 
 


SUGAR!!!!!

The girls also helped me put up a few decorations, so when our missionaries arrived the atmosphere was rather festive.   The Badger cooked hamburgers and made an enormous bowl of the best potato salad ever so it was a party!


I think Sister W enjoyed her cookie cake, despite its flaws and a slightly burnt taste.... sigh.  


We are sure grateful for our missionaries and the example they set for our children.  It must be hard to be away from your family on birthdays and other special days, so I hope we were able to help Sister W have a happy birthday out here in the mission field.  We're sure glad she's here.  
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