Friday, July 30, 2010

Michigan vacation

Whew--I finally had a chance to sort through all the photos from our trip. In an effort to simplify, I decided to just do one post from our time in Michigan, so here are some of the best ones featuring the kids:

Courtesy of Aunt Kendra, all the girls (Brianna, Addison, Natalie and Bethany) received pink shirts with matching homemade hair bows. So cute!
Not to be left out from all the matching, here are Zachary and Nathan sitting on top of a neighbor's tractor. Thanks again for the shirts, Aunt Kendra. That was so thoughtful of you!
The three oldest cousins posing with Grandpa. He just retired after 40 years as a physical education teacher, so he put together a fun morning of track and field events, where the kids competed against the adults.
We didn't get any big family photos like we did last year, but here is our best attempt at photo of the four of us. I was so hopeful for a winner (aka everyone smiling nicely at the same time)! Oh, well. This one's not too bad.

We had a wonderful time visiting family. It was so good to be together, and we are grateful for the ways everyone pitched in to help around the cottage. It's no small task preparing meals for 15 people! I'm also very appreciative of all Eric's mom did to help me, especially when Nathan got sick for a week (with his first bout of both strep and pinkeye--simultaneously, yikes!)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Works for Me Wednesday: Sorting summer recipes

I am a notorious recipe clipper. I tear them out of magazines, print them off of various blogs, and stash them all into my recipe binder. All "to-try" recipes go in the inside flap, until it either becomes a winner (thus finding a permanent place in my divided binder), or gets tossed into the recycle bin.

Because so many recipes are seasonal, I wanted to figure out a way to see all my summery meal inspiration at a glance, especially so I can take advantage of our garden produce. I went through all my untried recipe clippings, and sorted them into winter/fall/spring and summer. Then, I took all of the summer recipes and made a quick reference list, using categories such as main dish, snacks and breakfast. I jotted the name of each recipe down under the proper heading, and then underlined or wrote in parentheses the types of fresh produce needed for each one. When blueberries were on a super sale last week, I consulted my recipe list and knew exactly what recipe I wanted to try (Oatmeal Berry Bars). And when Eric brought home a bag full of green beans from our garden, I immediately pulled out the directions for Fast and Fancy Green Beans.

I think the list has served me pretty well. I pull it out when I'm making my meal plan, and it's nice to insert some new flavors into our usual round-up. Creating a recipe index might seem like a lot of work to some, but I wanted to be able to try new recipes while taking advantage of seasonal produce, and this approach is working for me. I'm anxious for our tomatoes to be ready for picking--there are so many salads I want to try. (Solo, that is. You probably remember that Eric is unfortunately allergic to this lovely fruit/veggie.)

Do you have a method for sorting recipes by season?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Blades of grass

I "celebrated" my half-birthday by doing something I'd never done before: mowing the lawn. Or should I say, part of the lawn. For the past several months, Eric and I have been coming up with personal challenges for each other. That's a topic for another day, but suffice it to say that the latest challenge my husband bestowed on me was to learn how to use the mower.

Some of you may wonder how I made it 31 1/2 years without ever mowing the lawn. And perhaps there are other women out there who, like me, never needed or cared to know. Eric showed me the basics (with Nathan putting in his two cents), and then sent me on my merry way to cover the easier half of our large front yard.

Here are some of my rookie observations:

*I could not get that thing started. Eric kept saying to pull harder, and I felt like I was giving it all I had!

*I've heard people say before that mowing the lawn is good exercise, and I admit I've always laughed a little to myself. Whew--now I get it! Pushing that machine around was definitely a workout.

*Sigh. Straight lines are much harder to achieve than I expected. I've never been a fan of activities that involve a lot of precision. Sewing comes to mind, as does cutting hair. I remember how nervous I was when I first started cutting Eric's hair. Talk about uneven! Thankfully, I've now had years of practice and I also use a clipper set that is very forgiving. As far as mowing the lawn is concerned, I certainly left room for improvement next time. If there is a next time! =)

*I'm not sure I want to write this as it means Eric will read it and follow through, but this experience did make me more interested in learning other skills I've always put in the "man category," such as grilling and car maintenance. (Some future challenge inspiration, perhaps?)

Enlighten me, ladies: do you mow the lawn at your house?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Our anniversary getaway

Eric's wonderful aunt Kerry offered to let us stay in her condo for our 5th anniversary excursion to northern Michigan. We are thankful to her for her generosity, and also to Eric's parents and siblings for caring for our kids while we were gone for a couple days.

Eric and I had so much fun exploring new places, and the weather was beautiful. We visited some neat tourist areas, went for an 18-mile bike ride along Lake Michigan, ate delicious food (including going out for breakfast--how fun is that?!), and enjoyed the novelty of uninterrupted conversation!
Here are a couple other photos from our time away:
Taking a break to admire the beautiful views of Lake Michigan

A self-portrait in the middle of a round of mini golf. We had a lot of fun, but please don't ask the score. (Ouch!)

Happy anniversary, Eric. Love you!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Home again

I haven't taken the time to add up the miles, but we hit 7 states on our recent trip to see both sides of our family. Whew! We are thankful for safe travel, and time with our loved ones.

I have over a thousand pictures (!) to sort through, but as I am able I hope to compile a few posts to chronicle our vacation. And I finally have a cute new profile pic to upload. (The one at right was taken by Monica last June!) See you soon . . .