Sunday, August 31, 2008

Little Helpers

This is how you entertain a four-year-old when you are trying to get the house cleaned and dinner ready before guests come, and he wants so much to help you, but you don't really have time for that kind of help. (I am sure you know what I mean.)

First, you let them pull a chair up to the sink.

Then you let them fill a cup with water....

for them to haul outside....

So they can water the plants.

Then repeat!

All the things kids love - chairs at the kitchen sink, water, hauling water around, and running in and out of the house.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Garden

The new garden is finally complete, and it (and my stairs) survived their first torrential downpour. I have to admit, I layed in bed listening to the rain pound down and I imagined James would be right again, and all my stairs would end up at the bottom of the hill. I was very relieved to see they were still intact when morning came.

So here is a little tour of our shady backyard garden.
And I hope you all have a relaxing Labor Day weekend.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Guess who I got to see!

Well, kind of.... I really only heard her and saw part of her elbow. (we were too late for the good seats) Brandi Carlile is one of my favorite artists, and she had a free concert at the Minnesota State Fair!
Last year on our summer trip to Colorado poor Aidan had to listen to "The Story" over and over again. (and worse, I sang along at the top of my lungs. There's just somthing about the open road that does it to me!) She has an amazing voice. Thanks James and Aidan, for being troopers and tagging along to the concert with me.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Malted Peanut Butter Bars

Last night we had A LOT of people over for dinner - lots of James' friends from MBA school, and other people he has met networking over the past few years at Carlson. I spent most of my evening either cooking or comforting a sick kid, so I wasn't able to really enjoy all of our guests, but I always enjoy cooking and trying to set a pretty feast. I have all these lovely french linens from a favorite aunt that look beautiful in our backyard setting.... I meant to take some photos, but the evening was over before I remembered. Maybe next time you come for dinner I can try and recreate the atmosphere!

Since we had around 40 people, I thought it would be much easier to have a self-serve dessert, instead of trying to pass out dessert plates and forks to everyone. I made three different bars, wrapped them individually, and placed them in a basket so that people could eat as much (or as little) as they wanted while they chased their kiddos around. You can find one recipe here, another here, and this one is my own. So yummy!

Malted Peanut Butter bars
1 cup shortening
2 cups brown sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup malted milk powder
1 bag peanut butter chips
Cream brown sugar and shortening. Add eggs, vanilla, fold in dry ingredients, add chips. Bake in greased 9 x 13 for 30 minutes, or until golden. They are best if you slightly under bake.

I also have become a fan of beets recently, thanks to one of my neighbors making the most delectable beet salad at one of our weekly neighborhood barbecues. Last night I made a delicious beet salad too, but the dressing was something I purchased at our local farmers market. So I will have to see if I can recreate it so I can post it online. It must have been a big hit, because the bowl was totally empty, and I had made a lot hoping for leftovers....... Oh well. James better watch out, the beets may soon take the place of bruschetta this summer!

I also found it works quite well to let guests use my sewing room to change their kids diapers. Rather good for business!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Summer Days....

.....are almost over.

We need to enjoy them while we can.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Weekend project

First, I need to apologize to all those readers who have been guests at our house and used our upstairs bathroom over the last few years. I know... it is a pretty bathroom, but there is one minor, (or major) flaw. The curtain did not provide any privacy.

Let me explain. When we first bought the house there was a tree in front of the window, which I pulled out two years ago. So until then, there really wasn't a problem. And I personally wasn't too affected, as I usually use our downstairs bathroom. Or if I am up late at night sewing.... I just leave the light off when I use the facilities. Don't worry, no one ever really saw anything, just your shadowy profile. One friend of ours often tells James she pulled up to our house and knew exactly what he was doing up there.......

Anyway.... James was gone all weekend, so I was occupying myself in my sewing room. I was just about ready to cut into this lovely Amy Butler fabric to make an elegant winter bag, when I thought, "This fabric would be perfect in our bathroom!" And I had enough yardage, and I even had enough of another thick upholstery fabric to be able to line the curtain. So the next time you visit, you can rest assured your trip to our upstairs bathroom will be totally private. Sunlight can't even get through this curtain!!!!!

Saturday, August 23, 2008


Remember this shot I posted last week?

Well, now that section of the garden looks like this. I have expanded it to be about twice the size it was before, and the garden is now terraced down the hill, beside all the steps we put in.

I am having a hard time capturing it all in pictures...... It really looks quite lovely.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Last Year

James mom, a.k.a. known as Kitty Grandma gave Aidan this wagon for his birthday.

We love the wagon. It has taken us to the parade, farmers market, picnics, plant shows, neighborhood barbeque's and more.

Thanks Grandma!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Do you know what happens

on a perfect sunny day, when all of our plans are suddenly cancelled, and James leaves to go to the gym and golf for a few hours?

Some might call it progress, others, (like James) just call it trouble. I can't help it. I always start a "little" project, and next thing you know it has snow-balled beyond my capabilities.

Anyway... remember this? I didn't love the way the pavers turned out, and so when we suddenly were surprised by a free Saturday, I thought maybe I would just go buy a little mulch to put between them so that James didn't have to weed-eat between them any more. (Thoughtful. Always thoughtful.) Then I thought maybe I should dig the dirt out so the pavers would be a little lower, and have more of an "aged" look. But then my existing border no longer worked, so I decided to haul field rock in from elsewhere in the yard. Then I decided if I was doing all that work, I may as well expand the flower bed, and pretty soon I was digging steps into the side of the hill.

I know, try living with me!

This project is actually taking me more than just a few hours. I have been laboring over it all weekend, and I imagine I will spend most of tomorrow out there as well. Next week we are having a bunch of James co-workers for a barbecue, so suddenly I had the impetus to attack all the projects I had only been thinking about completing this summer.

As you can see, I found a few helpers as well.

This is about halfway through one area.... I assure you there will be more pictures later.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

In case you were wondering...

We did try and do something nice for James on his birthday. We started off with breakfast in bed - except he woke up too soon, and ended up eating at the table. He told me he secretly loved the little strawberry serving tray I used, decorated with fresh flowers, and complete with cloth napkins and fine china.

We also bought him sushi for dinner, which in my opinion, is a major birthday gift. For one thing, it is expensive, and for another, it is so gross I feel like I have to disinfect my fridge after its gone. And we found we have another little sushi lover in the house. He won't eat tator-tot casserole, or sloppy joes, but he will swallow a piece of raw fish like it is his job. I guess expensive taste runs in the family.

We also had a bonfire and James favorite dessert with our good friends and neighbors, and James finished the night like this.

Moments like these are the best birthday gifts ever.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Check this out!

A few weeks ago a friend of ours was married, and I have to say, the photographer who took the pictures is absolutely amazing! (The bride was stunning as well, so I am sure it made the photographers job much easier.) To see more of her work, click here. It almost makes me want to get married again....... to the same guy, of course!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Happy Birthday

Today James turns 31. I have to admit, I really don't have any big plan to celebrate his day. I tried to plan a surprise birthday party, and invited a bunch of people over Saturday night, but it turns out James already had plans, so I had to email everyone and cancel. He also told me he was going to take advantage of all the free birthday golf rounds offered at various golf courses around the Twin Cities, so I assumed he would be gone from sun-up to sun-down, like he has been every other year on his birthday, but now he is only playing one course. Which only takes a few hours - and I have nothing else planned. Then I thought I would make his favorite dessert and pack it in the cooler and send it along with him to share with his friends at the end of his golf round, but he informed me that he would not be hungry for that dessert after playing golf all day. So, James, I guess today you have some well wishes from me, and a little spot on my blog. Thanks for being a great husband and father, and maybe for your 32nd birthday we can come up with a better plan. Happy Birthday!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Might I have a bit of earth?

Did any of you ever read the book "The Secret Garden" when you were growing up? In it, Mistress Mary asks her Uncle Archibald Craven "Might I have a bit of earth?" I have always loved that book, and the older I get the more time I enjoy my "bits of earth."

Since wandering around Highland Nursery the other day, the little wheels in my head have been spinning and turning non-stop as I think about all my little flower beds... and all the spots in my yard I have picked out for more little gardens. I figure James should be happy.

More garden = less mowing. Right?

There used to be a big, sprawling tree along this fence. (I took it out last week.) This week I planted a bunch of limelight hydrangeas here and transplanted some hostas that were overcrowding another spot in my garden. It may not look like much now, but next spring.... I can't wait! My goal is to eventually have most of this grassy area be garden. We can hardly keep the grass alive down here, and the creek and mosquitoes make it a less-than-ideal place for children to play. The hydrangeas will grow nice and tall and cover up the neighbors unsightly fence.

This is one of the gardens I rearranged after seeing the Highland Nursery. I had some unique ferns and I bought some varied astilbe to mingle with the bleeding hearts and monkshood. Once again, I can't wait for next spring! The difference the dormancy of winter has on your plants is amazing.

What's for breakfast?

I think I finally have figured out how to make the perfect Greek style homemade yogurt. And what better way to enjoy it in the morning, than with apricots, pistachios and honey. Mmmm.

Friday, August 15, 2008

An Enchanted Garden

If you love gardens, and you live in the Twin Cities, and you are on a budget then you must stay away from this store. Trust me. I only tell you for your own good.
Once you enter though its magic portals, you will never think of your gardens the same way again. I know. I spent hours last night making a new garden and rearranging one that I already have, and tomorrow I plan on doing some more work out there. All thanks to the inspiration found here.
Your children will love this place too. There are pathways and gazebos, frog ponds and elephant sculptures, fountains, garden gnomes and of course lots of dirt, pine cones and sticks. Perfect for any little boy or girl!
p.s. you can click here to make your photo mosaic!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

What I've been up to

Did you need a new purse? Sorry, these cute little clutches are all taken.

But you can check here if you need one of these!

Rainy Day

All week we had been looking forward to going to the pool with some friends.

So00000, we had a little change of plans. I guess there are fun things to do indoors too. Right kids? I mean, I personally enjoy listening to kids singing while they pound on the piano. Don't you? And we sure need the rain!

I am just thankful for friends and neighbors to share a rainy day with.