Monday, June 27, 2011

Growing Pains

This spring I planted a vegetable garden.  I decided to start small (very uncharacteristic of me - usually I start projects too big and then feel overwhelmed).  I enlisted the help of the Darling Husband and asked him to build me a 4 ft. by 6 ft. box to start with.  We went to Lowe's, got the lumber and lag bolts, and in no time he had the box built.  He ordered dirt, filled it for me, and then we went to the Farmer's Market where I bought four varieties of peppers and four varieties of tomatoes for the garden.  I absolutely ADORE fresh tomatoes, and I love making and canning homemade salsa, so this is a salsa garden.  I bought grape tomatoes (which I eat like grapes!), Sweet 100's which are cherry tomatoes (good for salads or eating) and some Early Girls and Better Boys for the salsa.  I bought jalepeno peppers, Hungarian wax peppers, a red bell pepper, a yellow bell pepper, and an orange bell pepper.  I also bought a flat of marigolds to plant around the perimeter to keep the rabbits away.

Here's how it looked when I planted it:

Things went along pretty well for 10 days or so, and then I left for a lacrosse tournament and college road trip with the Oldest Son.  We drove 2,000 miles and had a ton of fun.
We visited Penn State University (above), Lehigh University, Georgetown University, sweated our butts off walking around D.C. for a bit, took pictures of the White House, and then headed to Annapolis for the tournament.  We were there for two days, and boy was it hot and humid!  I stayed in an Aloft Hotel in Hanover, MD, near Annapolis.  It was very cool - I highly recommend.  Here are some pics...

BTW, I would just like to say that the Darling Husband and I had this SAME IDEA for refillable shampoo/conditioner and body wash dispensers in hotels rather than throwing away a barely-used-plastic-wrapped-soap and two little half used bottles of shampoo and conditioner a LONG TIME AGO!  Sheesh - next time I am going to act on one of my brilliant ideas.  Anyway, I hope that more hotel chains adopt this - it is way more economical and good for the environment.

On the way home from the tournament the Oldest Son and I stopped at Ohio State University.  Wow - that was a tough one for this University of Michigan grad, but they have a good lacrosse team and it was on our way home... kind of. 

It had rained a lot while we were gone and the garden had really grown.  A lot.  In fact, I forgot how much tomato plants grow.  They were so cute and little when I planted them.  They got huge and leggy while I was gone.  I got some tomato cage stake thingys to stake them up, but it was still really crowded, so I dug two of them out of the middle and had to make a little side garden.  Next year, two boxes for sure!  Maybe four?  (Here I go again...)

The Darling Husband just asked how my garden was, and I showed him the picture.  He thinks we should build another box right now.  I love his can-do attitude!  If he builds me another box, I wonder if I could get some lettuce going?  I will have to look into this...

Finally, on the subject of growing things and summer, don't you just love fresh tomato and basil on sandwiches?  Mmm...


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Almost there...

Wow, the end of the school year is tough - especially when you teach a lot of seniors.  And they think that "senioritis" is a real thing that is truly an excuse for not wanting to do their work.  I have been logging LONG hours at work helping kids get all of their work done so that they can finish high school, and LONG hours at the kitchen table or on the couch grading essays.  It really has not left much time for anything else, and taking pictures of me grading essays and putting them on the blog just doesn't seem too exciting for anyone, really.  One more week!  My seniors finished yesterday, and so I have all of those essays graded.  That was a big push this past week.  Now I look to getting my underclassmen in my AP Lit class and my one section of 11th grade English finished up.  They are all doing great, and I am confident we will all sail through this week.  (Power of positive thinking, right?)

At the end of April, it was my birthday and Easter all in one weekend.  That only happens once in a great while.  I had a birthday on Easter when I was one year old and my grandma made me a chick cake.  There are pictures of me with it at my mom's house.  So cute. :)  I will try to get over there and find one.  Anyway, Tiny Dancer decided that she would make me chick cupcakes for my birthday. 
This recipe is from a cute cupcake kit my mom gave her for Christmas.  She also gave her some other really fancy cupcake books, and a handmade cupcake apron.  Adorable!  Tiny Dancer loves to watch those cake shows on TLC, including Cake Boss and Cupcake Wars.
Here she is in her cute apron.  She makes amazing cupcakes!
So adorable, if I do say so myself.
(I think there are some pictures of the darling finished chick cupcakes on Tiny Dancer's camera, but she is not up yet.  I will try to add them here!)

Meanwhile, I was cooking dinner.  I had been craving cheesy potatoes for about a week and decided to make them for our dinner.  I cannot take credit for the recipe.  It comes from my idol, P-Dub, otherwise known at The Pioneer Woman, and her blog.  They are called Perfect Potatoes au Gratin, and they are scrumptious!

Start with four whole russet potatoes, scrubbed clean.
Then, slice them and cut the slices into quarters.  Place in a buttered baking dish.
Then, whisk together cream, milk, flour, minced garlic, plenty of salt (and for my Dutch friends like me this means a lot of salt!), and plenty of fresh ground black pepper. (You do this in layers - first some potatoes, then some liquid, then potatoes, etc.  The recipe explains this step.)   Then you bake it for a while with foil over it.  Partway through baking you remove the foil and top with grated cheddar and then bake some more.
Bake for a few more minutes until cheese is bubbly and you can't stand it because you want to eat them so badly!
Oh my goodness, so good.  The rolls in the background are frozen Rhodes dinner rolls and are one of my family's favorites.  They are about 50 times better if you make them in a cast iron skillet, as I did in this picture.  They are about 100 times better if you brush them with melted butter and sprinkle them with sea salt and fresh rosemary, as I did NOT here because I killed my rosemary plant by not watering it enough this winter.  Luckily, I bought a new one at the Farmer's Market last weekend, so we will try again.

So, I must have really been craving cheesy potatoes.  My mom had us over on Sunday for Easter/my birthday dinner, and she had made me cheesy potatoes (which I had requested and forgotten!) and she used the exact same recipe 'cause she loves P-Dub too.  And guess what?  They are soooo good that no one in my family minded eating them two days in a row!