Friday, August 29, 2014

Moving... Again!!

As I shared a few months ago, I moved from the Edmonds School District (my home for the last 18 years) to the Snohomish School District. I was hired to teach a second grade classroom for the 2014-15 school year in a small school in Snohomish.  I spent many years in a second grade classroom in Edmonds, so I felt totally comfortable with the idea, but my passion is teaching kindergarten.  I hoped that, eventually, a kindergarten spot would open up and I'd be able to move back to teaching the little guys. 

The first day back, for teachers, was Wednesday.  There were meetings, time to work in our rooms, and time to do a little planning with grade level partners.  I didn't have too much to do in my room (organizing, moving furniture, or creating bulletin boards) because I had spent many, many, many hours over the past few weeks in my classroom.

If you are my friend on Facebook, you saw this picture that my friend Ceres posted about my gigantic mess.  You see, teachers hoard have a lot of stuff - 12 bookshelves and hundreds of boxes to be exact.

That pile wasn't even ALL of my teacher stuff. I'd already moved a ton of things to my three car garage, where it would wait patiently all summer long.  

Back to Wednesday...
We finished our meetings and I was just packing up for the day when our principal let me know that she was 99% sure that I would be able to make a move to kindergarten.  The previous teacher had moved to a new school.  We needed to hire a new 1st grade teacher to reduce class sizes.  The current first grade teacher (who formerly taught kindergarten) was ok staying in first grade, and this all meant that I could have my dream job!  My principal checked, again, with human resources, and by 6:30 on Wednesday night it was a done deal.

Here's the catch:
The kindergarten class had to be on the other side of the building.  Hours and hours of work setting up a second grade classroom, and I was going to need to magically transfer my things to a new room and set it up with the needs of kindergarten students in mind.  

Thursday consisted of meetings in the morning, a full half day of cleaning out the room I was planning to move into, Meet the Teacher at 4pm, and then moving an entire classroom after that.  I called in The Help (my family and my friend who totally gets "family status" now).  It took 6 kids and 6 (very strong and helpful) kids - between 4 and 5 hours to complete the move, but my kindergarten class is reading for learning! I can't even believe it!  I would have taken a picture of the new room, but I was too exhausted to even lift my phone.  My kids rolled into bed close to 11pm and they are really hoping that Mom never moves again. Moving and setting up a classroom is like moving and setting up a small home.  I can't even begin to tell you how much I appreciate all of the help.  I could NEVER have done it alone!

Happy Back To School Time!!! 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

60 Acres of Sunflowers

A few weeks ago we made a trip over to my cousin's farm in Kittitas. My cousin and uncle usually plant hay, wheat, corn, and the typical Eastern Washington crops.  This year, my cousin had a contract to plant 60 acres of sunflowers.

I really love our Farmcation every year, but I was absolutely giddy this year with the thought of taking pictures in the sunflower field.  I have over two hundred pictures to sort through and edit.  The kids were all great sports, posing for many photos.  I haven't had time to edit those yet- too many vacations and too little time!  Here are a few of my favorites that are straight out of the camera.  The sun and the field were so beautiful they really don't need editing or filters.

Seriously, is there anything happier than a field of sunflowers?  

Ok, one thing might be happier than a field of sunflowers... 

me - taking pictures in a field of sunflowers - and also having permission to pick a huge bucket of sunflowers to take home for my table!

Just happy.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Best Peach Cobbler I've Ever Made

When we were in Ellensburg, last week, we bought a box of local Regina peaches at a farm stand just off of the freeway.  We took them over to my cousin's house with us and just about devoured them in the the two days we were there.  On the way home, we figured that we should probably buy another box since they were so good.  The day after we got home, my hubby requested peach cobbler.  I'm not a huge fan of warm fruit, but I figured I'd give it a try.  This recipe is a combination of a peach cobbler recipe that I found on Pinterest and another cobbler recipe that is a Pioneer Woman recipe.  I took my favorite things about both recipes and combined them into one.  

Friends, when my hubby tasted it he told me it was hands-down the best thing I have ever made. Not just the best cobbler I've ever made, but the all-around BEST THING - out of anyting that I have ever made.  Now, you should know that I bake and cook A LOT.  So, saying that this recipe was the best thing ever is really saying something.  The topping tasted kind of like a warm cookie and the peaches were absolutely perfect.  I chose the least ripe peaches I could find in the box so they wouldn't be smooshy.  My hubby drizzled his ice cream and cobbler with caramel sauce, but I didn't think that sounded very good, so here's the picture without caramel.

Here's the recipe:

6 fresh peaches, sliced
1/4 cup sugar to sprinkle on peaches
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup self-rising flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a large baking dish. (I used my large round Pampered Chef Stoneware.)  Place sliced and peeled peaches in the pan. Sprinkle the peaches with  1/4 cup sugar. Set aside.  Cream butter and 1 cup of sugar.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Add flour and salt. MIx well.  Drop by spoonfuls onto the peaches and spread it around.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes. Cool slightly and serve with ice cream.  Top with caramel sauce if you think that sounds good.

Honestly, I can't say it was the best thing I've ever made.  It was pretty tasty though, and you just can't beat fresh peaches!

Happy baking!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Dinner Group in August

Last night was my turn to host the dinner group that I do with a few friends.  I posted about this dinner group before, explaining how it is the best way ever to host a dinner party.  My friend, Krystal, came up with the plan.  She said a friend had done a dinner group like this one and loved it.  We started about a year ago, with the intention of getting together once a month.  Some months are crazier than others and we have to skip, but I was excited to host this month!  Everything is just easier in the summertime. 

For those of you who aren't regular readers of my blog, the whole idea behind our dinner group is that the host chooses the recipes and purchases the ingredients, but doesn't do any of the cooking ahead of time.  Each guest and the host cooks one of the dishes. The rule is, that you can't choose recipes that you've ever made before.  It has to be something new.  Now, those of you who know me know that I am NOT an adventurous eater.  Sometimes the recipes have really prompted me to venture out of my comfort zone!  

I decided we would have a honey themed party this time.  Each recipe I chose involved honey in some way.  We started off with a honey and cheese table. 

 I went down to my local Central Market, which has a lot of specialty items.  I told the people in the cheese section what my plan was and they got REALLY excited.  Honestly, I think I made their day!  They guided me in my cheese and honey pairings and explained way more about the flavors of cheese and honey together than I would really ever need to know. Williams-Sonoma also has a great blog post on honey tasting. One of the cheese blocks I bought (the one that practically made the cheese man jump up and down with joy) used crushed honey comb from bees outside of a monastery in France, around the edge of the cheese.  (At least I think that's how his story went.  I started hearing, "Wah, wah, wah.  Waaaah.  Wah. Wah."  It was a little overwhelming.) By the way, when you go to a fancy cheese store and they show you the cheese you should buy, look at the cheese but then ask for something less expensive.  Wow!  Who knew cheese could be so expensive!

We were all kind of shocked by different flavors that the different honey had.  We used Clover, Raspberry, and Blackberry honey.  Obviously, the cheese had different flavors too.  I should have kept track of the different types of cheese, but I forgot to write them down for later!  I tried to remember which honey was supposed to go with certain cheeses, but in the end, I couldn't remember.  We just snacked and enjoyed our cheese and honey pairings.

I'm not a drinker, but my friends usually serve some sort of yummy drink when they host the dinner group.  I found a recipe for a peach and honey drink that sounded good.  It called for Jack Daniels' Honey Whiskey.  Ummm.  That's a $32 bottle of alcohol that I will never use again!  My local Safeway had Jim Bean Honey Whiskey for $10, so that's the one I chose to use.  I forgot to take a picture of the drinks but they were very pretty.  The recipe called for equal amounts of whiskey, peach nectar, and sparkling water, with a little honey mixed into the drink.  Yes, I tried the drink!  I took a taste and it was very honey/peachy.   I had about half of the drink and then I promptly handed it over to my hubby.  I just don't like the alcohol flavor.  Bleck.

I set up a little table on my deck so we could eat dinner outside.  I love that tablecloth.  It's a pretty linen cloth that was my grandma's from many years ago.  The folding chairs were my grandparents' too.  I just love the antiquey feel.

On the menu tonight was grilled corn with honey basil butter, chicken with a honey Thai rub, and a pear and blue cheese salad with honey glazed walnuts.  Overall, I LOVED the salad and HATED the chicken.  I thought the grilled corn was really yummy.  I've never grilled corn right in the husks so that was something new for me.  

For dessert, we had a apple tart drizzled with honey.  

 I've never been a huge fan of honey, so this was something new for me.  I've used honey in recipes, but I don't usually put honey on anything and just eat it.  I have to say, I kind of like it, especially the honey and cheese pairings.  That was surprisingly yummy!

It was such a nice party and a perfectly relaxed evening.  Thanks for coming, friends!

Happy party planning!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

One More Foody Post

I just had to share one more foody post, since I've been having so much fun with food photography lately.  I took these on opening night of our friends' new restaurant in Snohomish.  

I'm kind of a clam connoisseur, and these were absolutely amazing!  I can't wait to go back for more.  

Check it out if you are down in Snohomish.  It's called Roger's Riverview Bistro.  They love it when people bring in bags and bags of camera equipment and set up tripods in their walkway.  It's not disruptive at all.  :)

Happy picture taking and clam eating!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Homemade Pesto

What do you do with a garden full of basil?

Make pesto, of course!

I made a big batch of pesto earlier in the week and I've been using it in recipes all week long.  We've been having pesto appetizers, pesto on sandwiches, and pesto on our pasta.  It's so fresh and yummy!  I just love it!  Once my daughter got over the muddy green color, she fell in love.  My son loves any type of food you put in front of him, so it wasn't a hard sell for him.

I'm sad to say, I can't even share my pesto recipe with you.  It was one of those - a little of this, a little of that - type things.  I put as much basil into the food processor as I could fit, added garlic, olive oil, pine nuts, and Parmesan cheese.  I added salt to taste and called it good.  How's that for a precise recipe?  Thankfully, we've had a pretty dry summer, so I'm sure there will be more basil to come!

Happy gardening!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Garden to Table

There are few things that make me quite as happy as harvesting food right from my garden and serving it to my family.  Tonight was Salad Night.  I ran out to the garden and picked a couple heads of lettuce.

My only problem with picking lettuce from my garden is the bugs.  We don't use any chemicals in the garden, which means bugs.  I wash the lettuce, leaf by leaf.  Then I lay it out on a towel, and inspect each leaf for bugs as I tear it up to put in the salad spinner.  Once in the salad spinner, I wash it again.  Did I mention that I'm not a fan of the bugs?

My daughter is getting a little tired of salad.  Tonight she asked, "Are you really picking lettuce for salad AGAIN?"  My son and hubby, on the other hand, LOVE Costco's Chinese Chicken Salad. (I never said it was a fancy homemade salad!)  

My son was so excited for the salad that he finished washing the lettuce and assembled the salads for us.  That's my kind of dinner - no running to the grocery store for lettuce and having someone else make my dinner.  It was all perfect until everyone took off just in time for clean up.  I knew it was too good to be true!

Happy gardening!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Summertime Garden

In late July and early August you will find my garden at its happiest.  Everything is starting to bloom and my garden hasn't been destroyed by lack of water, or the trampling of little feet. (Who am I kidding, my kids both have giant feet!)  It's pouring down rain here today, so I thought a little garden tour was in order.  

I'll start with one of my absolute favorite plants.  Meet Annabelle.  

Annabelle Hydrangeas are known for the big mopheads that they produce.  There are so many flowers on these plants that I am forced to cut more bouquets than I have places for in my house.  I know, it's a tough problem to have. 

Annabelles love lots of water, like all hydrangeas, but they are not fans of the pounding rain.  I'm dreading what today's rainstorm is doing to them right now.   I usually gently shake them off after it rains, but I'm sure I will have lots of broken branches.  The rain makes the mophead very heavy and pulls them to the ground.

I planted some basil up near the house this year, and it has been very happy there.  That corner bounces the heat around and it acts like a little mini green house.   Keeping the old watering can there reminds me to keep it watered.  I tried purple basil there again this year and it didn't last.  I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong with that variety.

My vegetable garden is very herb heavy this year.  I noticed that most of the "fun" fruits and veggies haven't worked very well, so I decided to plant what I know works well in this space, considering what we use the most.  

This year's garden is very basil and cilantro heavy.  I use those two herbs a few times a week.

We planted lots of lots of lettuce.  Some varieties are kind of wilty, but the Romaine lettuce is pretty crisp.  We eat a lot of chicken Caesar wraps this time of year.  

I finally have a few zucchini starting!  See that little baby right there?

My hubby's request this year was a couple of blueberry bushes.  I have two bushes that didn't make it through the winter, so I bought this one in early Spring.  The blueberries are ripening!  A few more weeks and we'll be ready for some blueberry cobbler a small handful of berries.

My dahlias make me happy.  (Thanks Carpooler Michelle!)  You are supposed to dig up dahlia tubers every year, store them indoors, then replant them in the spring.  I don't have that much patience, so I leave them in the ground and feel lucky when they don't rot and actually produce beautiful flowers.  Again, I'm not looking forward to seeing what today's rain has done to this pretty flower!

I have several varieties of hydrangeas around my yard.  This one is changing.  This is the only stem on this plant that produces this type of flower.  They rest are lacecaps.  I talked to someone at Wight's Nursery about why this is happening and she said it is not possible to have a plant change from a mophead to a lacecap.  I listened politely, but I have the proof right in my yard.  I have no idea why this plant (along with a few others) are mutating this way.  Weird.

This little area by my shed, along the fence, has been my most recent garden project.  The fence is really ugly, so I needed things to hide it.  It get very little sun, if any at all, and it's slightly sloped.  This is only year two for these plants, so I know they will fill in in another two years.  It's filled with hostas, and a few other shade perennials.

Last years I added three honeysuckles and I love them!  I just need to figure out how I'm going to attach them to the fence so they will cover some of the ugliness.

 My little wagon, in front of the shed looks like it needs a bit more fertilizer, but the flowers add a little color.

The front of the house is starting to bloom as well.

These are the plants we stole from the cemetery.  Ok, we didn't really steal them.  We bought them in the first place, and took them down to the graves of my step-dad, father in law, grandpa, and grandma.  After a week, the cemetery workers come around and collect everything to put in the dumpster, regardless of condition.  So, my mother in law runs down just before they are about to toss my pretty flowers and collects them for me.  Isn't that good thinking?  

*Funny side story - One year my mom, grandma, and I went down to the cemetery to pick up the plants before they were thrown away.  There were lots of people around, so when my mom and grandma went to get the plants I yelled from the car, "That one's pretty too!  Whey don't you grab it too!"  My mom was mortified and I was cracking up laughing.*

Here are a few more hydrangeas from the front of the house.  The top one was supposed to be a white mophead, and over the years this is what it has changed to.  I'm tellin' ya, it's weird!

I bought a little Blue Star Creeper a few years ago, and it has taken off.  I love that you can walk on it and it bounces back.  My house NEEDS plants that bounce back.  The front yard is home to the basketball hoop.  The Blue Star Creeper sees lots of action.

Finally, we have the hanging baskets and window boxes.  I try to get these planted a little before Memorial Day.  They are tiny little starts when I buy them, and fill out nicely by July.  I will plant these baskets as long as I live and I don't ever think I will change flowers.  I plant Bacopa, Geraniums, and Petunias every year.  I think they make my house happier.

I guess they make me happier too!

Happy gardening!


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