Tuesday, June 30, 2009

In search of a perfect cup of coffee...

I'm on a mission. I'm trying to discover the very best coffee for making at home and drinking black.

To be honest, I could indulge in Starbucks' Caramel Macchiatos every day but neither my waistline nor my pocketbook are agreeable to that idea.

I do enjoy a good cup of black coffee, but I find I'm getting pickier as to what I consider "good." I've heard rave reviews about Dunkin Donuts coffee, so I bought a pound and tried it. It was okay, but I didn't think it was all that outstanding. I really couldn't tell much difference between that and Folgers. I saw Eight O'Clock coffee at the grocery store and vaguely remember my dad drinking that brand years ago, so I tried that. Same thing. Just okay.

I wonder if I'm not getting the "right" roast? I have no idea whether I prefer light roast or dark roast. I just know what I like when I taste it!

Maybe I need to get a coffee grinder and buy whole bean coffee? Does that make a difference in the taste? Is percolated coffee better, or different, than drip coffee?

Coffee drinkers, help me out here! What brand do you prefer? Do you buy ground coffee or the whole beans? What kind of coffee maker do you use? Do you add anything to your coffee or do you drink it black? Do you like flavored coffee?

So many options!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Summer Days

Even though my work doesn't slow down for the summer, I am trying to make a conscious effort to enjoy the beautiful weather we're having and the change in our normal routine.

Outside my window… warm sunshine and cool breezes. We truly are having perfect summer weather!

I am thinking… of all the "little jobs" I need to do today. My Grandmother used to call her daily chores "little jobs." She had a knack for recruiting the grandchildren to help with the little jobs by making them sound so fun!

I am thankful for… the glorious weather. I can't remember when we've had such a long stretch of not-too-hot/not-too-cold days.

From the learning rooms… we aren't doing much "real" school work now that it's summer, but I am encouraging the girls to read some every day. R is also enjoying working on a lapbook to go with The Long Ride Home. L is learning to play the guitar.

From the kitchen… southern-style sweet iced tea, except I go light on the sugar!

I am creating… some little crocheted accessories-- cell phone cases, coffee sleeves, etc. --embellished with crocheted flowers. Right now I'm just playing around, but if I get a stock built up I'm thinking of opening an Etsy shop.

I am going… to family camp in the mountains this weekend!

I am reading…Through the Fire by Shawn Grady.

I am hoping… that my 89-year-old MawMaw gets better soon. She's been pretty sick this past week.

I am hearing… leaves rustling in the breeze.

Around the house… making sure laundry is done and the trailer is stocked for camp this weekend.

One of my favorite things… planning for the upcoming school year. For some reason, I think that's the most fun part of homeschooling!

A few plans for the rest of the week: After we drop the trailer off at camp on Thursday, I get to ride with my husband on some business errands that afternoon before we go back to camp. The nice thing is, the girls can stay at camp while we're gone because my brother's family will be there, too, in case they need anything!

Here is a picture thought I am sharing:Sunset in our backyard! The picture doesn't do it justice, but the clouds were edged with pink. Just breathtaking!

Grandmother Wren is hosting The Simple Woman's Daybook this summer while Peggy takes a vacation.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Summer Sunday Supper

When I was a little girl I would beg my mother, "Tell me stories about when you were a little girl!"

She'd laugh and say, "I don't have any stories!" But she did! Just simple anecdotes of everyday happenings when she was growing up.

Now that I'm a mother, my children love to hear my "stories," too!

One Sunday recently I told the girls that we would be having a Sunday supper like we used to have in the summertime when I was a little girl...
...watermelon and popcorn!

We would split the watermelon in half, and everyone just dug in with a spoon! The salty, crunchy popcorn was a perfect accompaniment... and occasionally we would also have homemade fudge or divinity candy! The beverage of choice was sweet iced tea.

It seems like a funny meal, doesn't it? But it tasted good... and no one ever went away hungry!

Ah, the memories!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Cookie Plays Frisbee

"Oh! Hello, Daddy! You're outside!
Great! Let's play Frisbee! Go on! Throw it! I'm ready!"
"Where'd it go? Where'd it go? I can catch it! Just watch me!"
"See? I caught it! Want it back?"
"Throw it again! Pleeease? I like this game!"
"Oh, wait. What's that noise over there?
It's fun to play but the 'head of ranch security'
must be ever vigilant, you know!"
"Whew! Time for a break!
All that exercise and guard duty wears a doggy out!"

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cherishing the Summer

My children are growing up so quickly.

I am trying to remember
to slow down enough to "be in the moment"
of these swiftly fleeting days of youth.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Additions to my violet tea-set

My eclectic violet tea-set is growing! Last summer I added a cup-and-saucer set I found at a garage sale, and then in March I received another cup-and-saucer set in a tea swap I participated in. So then I had the teapot plus 5 different cups-and-saucers.

A couple weeks ago I found this cute little demitasse-size cup-and-saucer at a thrift store to add to my collection.
Later, I couldn't pass up this pretty violet saucer for 75 cents at a garage sale, even if it didn't have a matching cup!
I just tucked it up under another saucer for now.
Who knows? I might come across a stray cup sometime that doesn't have a saucer, and then those two pieces can be partners!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Camp Cooking

We like to cook over the open fire when we go camping. Here's a sample of some of the meals we enjoyed on a recent camping trip.

The first night we had hot-dogs. That's usually our default first-night meal because there's very little prep and clean-up!
For breakfast we cooked bacon in the skillet (and then eggs in the same skillet when the bacon was done) and biscuits on a stick.
Supper that night was Campfire Stew Packets... stew meat, potatoes, and carrots tightly wrapped in foil.
After about an hour over the fire, we unwrapped the foil at the picnic table for a hot and hearty meal.
Later in the evening, Lyle made a batch of old-fashioned popcorn for us to enjoy while we played Skip-Bo by lantern light at the picnic table.
One of the reasons I enjoy camping is because Lyle does most of the cooking. Outdoors. Open fire. Yeah, it's a guy thing!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Making hairpin lace

Vintage needlework fascinates me. I enjoy a wide variety of hand crafts, and I'm always eager to learn something new. Last summer friend of mine (an older lady) taught me how to make hairpin lace. She even had an extra hairpin fork that she gave me. It was a larger one, though, the size to use with yarn to make an afghan or shawl. I was interested in trying to make actual lace but I hadn't seen any smaller hairpin forks for sale anywhere. It seems to be a pretty obscure and obsolete craft.

I was very excited to come across a 1.5" fork at a thrift store a few weeks ago. I even had an old Workbasket magazine with a pattern for a hairpin lace doily, so I wasted no time in trying it out!
I'm still working on the doily. I think I misread the instructions for the edging or something. In any case, I need to take it out and try again.

In the meantime, I found patterns online for a bookmark... and a lace edging. They are still pretty chunky for lace, as I used bedspread weight cotton thread, but until I find a smaller hairpin fork I think that's probably going to be the finest lace I can make.
It's really not very hard to make. Not nearly as tricky as tatting. But, of course, I'm an experienced crocheter so that probably makes a difference.

I've been surprised, though, at how hard patterns are to find. I did a search online and most of the patterns were for shawls. I would love to find a book of different edging patterns... so I'll be on the look-out!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Another backwoods ruin...

A few weeks ago I posted about a falling-down log cabin we came across along a mountain back-road. Since then we went camping on Priest Lake in extreme northern Idaho (just 17 miles south of the Canadian border).

As we were exploring the forest around the campground we came upon this beautiful fireplace. We could tell it had once been part of a building, from the way the stonework changes toward the top of the chimney. Naturally, we were curious. It was apparent that the fireplace had been used recently (there were ashes in it), but there were no other remains of a building around it.
The campground hosts were very friendly, so the next time we encountered them I asked them to tell me about the old fireplace. The host couple has been coming up here from Missouri every summer for 13 years so I was sure they would know. They did!
The fireplace was once part of a ranger station. It was built in the 1920s and burned down in the 1950s. I didn't think to ask why it was never re-built. Actually, I think he said that a new ranger station was built in another location.
I can't imagine why. If I had this view, I don't believe I'd care to move.

Thank you, anyway!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Thrifty China

I like watching for odd pieces of pretty vintage china at garage sales and thrift stores. I'm somewhat frugal when it comes to collectibles, so I don't collect anything expensive or very valuable. Just cheap pieces that I like.

A few weeks ago I found 2 large soup bowls with a gold-filigree-on-dark-green border that I thought were pretty. They are a very practical size so I was happy to get them for $1 each.

This past weekend I found a similar saucer for 75 cents. As I was buying it I thought about how fun it would be if it happened to match the 2 bowls. I had to laugh at myself when I got home! The saucer had a red border... and I had completely forgotten that the bowls were green!

But they look pretty together, don't they?
I also got this red transferware saucer at the same garage sale for 75 cents. Actually, I'm not sure that it's a saucer. It's probably a bread plate, but it's the size of a saucer.
Then I stacked them all together with another bowl and a lidless sugar bowl that I had added to my collection last summer.
I use my pretty dishes occasionally... but mostly I just enjoy looking at them.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Mini Burgers

I'm always on the look-out for new meal ideas. The latest issue of Mary Jane's Farm had a recipe for "3-Bite Burgers" with biscuits instead of buns. It looked fun... and yummy...
The instructions said to pat out the biscuit dough very thin and then stack 2 biscuits together before baking, so that they split apart easily like hamburger buns. That worked great!
There were several different variations for the hamburger filling. Each included a little flour to bind it together, similar to meat loaf.
This was one pound of hamburger meat, but it makes enough for 16 "mini burgers". I patted the meat into the bottom of a square baking dish, and then baked it till the meat was done.
I sprinkled it with cheese and put it back in the oven until the cheese melted. Then I cut the meat into 16 squares and served it on the biscuits!
We liked them okay, but decided we would like them even better as breakfast sandwiches with sausage instead of hamburger meat. I think I'll try that next time.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Tatting Treasures

What would you expect to find in a fruit cake tin at a garage sale?

It could be just about anything, really! But my heart nearly skipped a beat when I saw the label tucked up under the lid: Supplies for Tatting -- 4.00
I carefully opened it up to see exactly what "supplies" might be included...
Oh! Look at the dainty little flower samples all fastened to this card...
Then I lifted the card and found a whole nest of deliciously colored tatting thread, along with 4 regular shuttles and a spare bobbin!
The eyeglass case held 3 punch embroidery needles and 2 threaders. (I don't know what they have to do with tatting... but there they are!) And the lady threw in a magazine that had an article on tatting. What a deal!

I'm still learning to tat. I'm determined to create something pretty with a tatting shuttle before the year is over.

This was just the extra inspiration I needed to keep practicing!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Collecting Wildflowers

On our camping trip this past weekend, one of my favorite activities was watching for wildflowers to photograph. I was quite impressed with my knowledge of the flowers I discovered along our hike.

For example, I recognized these little cuties as yellow violets!
And I knew the trillium because some of my blog readers clued me in on it a week or two ago. (This one wasn't nearly as pretty and the first one!)
I wasn't so sure about this one, but I thought it was likely some sort of berry.
I decided I needed a book... because, truth be told, I really don't know the names of very many wildflowers. When I saw this Field Guide to [Western] Wildflowers at Costco the other evening, I snatched it up! Just what I needed!
Other books in the series were for birds and trees. It would be fun to identify all those things as we go on our little excursions, but I decided that I was most interested in the flowers.

Wanna know what I learned already?

  • Turns out there are 5 different yellow violets listed in my book! I guess I didn't know so much, after all. I identified the ones we saw as Stream Violets.
  • The trillium is also known as the Western Wake Robin. (I could have identified it myself if I had had this book before, but it was more fun to have you help me!)
  • The "mystery" berry is the Western Serviceberry.

So now I have a new hobby.

Because, of course, I need another hobby!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Springtime morning...

For Today...

Outside my window... the lawn sprinkler is going... the lilacs are blooming... it's going to be a beautiful late spring day!

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you...I am thinking... that it's almost time for me to start work this morning!

From the learning rooms... hopefully finishing it up curriculum this week.

I am thankful for... family time.

From the kitchen... chewy oatmeal cookies. My favorite!

I am reading... The Missionary... Wives and Daughters... getting ready to start Little Dorrit

I am hoping... for a good, productive week.

I am creating... hairpin lace! I found a hairpin "staple" at a thrift store not long ago. I'll show you soon.

Around the house... time to get out the fans, and start closing drapes to keep the house cooler during the heat of the day. (We have no a/c because it usually cools off enough at night here to keep us comfortable.)

One of my favorite things... walking and talking with my husband.

A few plans for the rest of the week... orthodontist appointment tomorrow, homeschool soccer on Friday... getting ready for my last 2 homeschool conventions of the year next week and the week after.