Monday, June 30, 2008

Sharen's Country Garden

On Friday, I had the pleasure of visiting the gardens of the sweetest lady on the planet, my friend, Sharen. In her magical garden, your cares and worries melt away with the dazzling beauty of the flowers and dreams of the delightful tastes of the fresh fruits and vegetables. Sharen completed the Master Gardener program a few years ago, which added to her knowledge and experience. Here's a peak at her lovely gardens.

Sharen at one of her favorite places. This archway leads to the playground; she also owns Sharen's Country Kids Daycare. She says the clematis will stretch all the way across the arch by fall and bloom in a cascade of flowers.

She and her husband, Jim showed me their favorite place to relax. A deck overlooking the garden. I understand why they love this spot!

Sharen has picked up tables and chairs over the years, mainly at yard sales, and annually hosts a huge family reunion in the midst of this setting. Wonder why the family insists she be the host?!

We meandered around investigating the different growing beds Sharen has developed for vegetables here and flowers there. We first wandered into the vegetable garden. What in the world...I'm now convinced I've grown a tiny, teeny garden.

Just look at this unbelieveable yellow squash plant.

Gorgeous tomatoes, too!

Cabbage, peppers, onions, green beans, cucumbers and more are hangin' out here growing huge, loaded with tantilizing veggies.

Of course, she's evenly more deeply engrained in my heart because she, too, loves blackberries (and rasberries, gooseberries, peaches, apples and cherries, too. All growing in her yard).

Next we made our way through the winding flower beds. So many unexpected overturned bucket, a cream separator, an angel. Sharen loves to go to yard sales and she has an eye for garden treasures.

I had an early love of daylilies that had faded for some reason. It' been renewed. If you have lots of sun, daylilies are perfect!

I waited for the sun to shine on this beauty and make it dazzle, but y'know I have a little trouble with patience.

Here she is with her girlfriends.

Just to give you an idea of Sharen's knowledge and talent, this Wisteria is just three years old!

Purple coneflowers, daisies, daylilies and more greet you as you drive up to the house.

As these hollyhocks stand guard.

We had a wonderful time walking through and discussing the unknowingly learning, she unknowingly teaching. She asked me to come back! She explained that it all changes as different plants begin to bloom later in the season. "On a Saturday, I'll make lemonade". I can't wait! Thank you, Sharen.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Anticipating Blackberry Pie

I have a thing for blackberries and especially blackberry pies, blackberry cobblers, blackberry scones or blackberries over ice cream. If all goes well, we will have blackberry pie in two to three weeks.

The blackberry plants are loaded with berries.

We bought these plants from Stark Brothers Nursery in Louisiana, Missouri, just north of my hometown of St. Louis. We received the bare root plants in the mail and they were incredibly healthy. We planted the berry plants three years ago and, to be honest, have hardly lifted a finger since except to pick.

On our property, we also have a stately, ginormous Mulberry tree.

It's the "As-old-as-your-greatgrandma" variety. It's the overseer and wisdom-giver to a number of smaller Mulberry trees surrounding it.

I hadn't eaten mulberries before living here. They are very sweet, yet watery tasting with an impossible to remove inner stem. Could this be why you don't hear about Mulberry pie as apoused to the coveted Blackberry pie? When I make Blackberry pie, I'm my mother-in-law's favorite daughter-in-law! She too covets Blackberry pie. Let's not dwell on the fact that I am her ONLY daughter-in-law.

The countdown is on! I'm dreaming of Blackberry pie.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Photos, Pictorials and Prints

I have a new camera! I have been a-wishin' and a-hopin' for a new camera for quite some time. My old point-and-click mini-digital did not take close-ups or action shots well. Two things I'm very fond of as I have three growing, sports-playing boys.

So where to go for good information? Blogs, of course!

Here are some of the bloggers that unknowingly helped me out:

My Treasure Box

The Shutter Sisters

The Pioneer Woman

After studying the equipment list these women had posted and reviewing the options, I chose a Nikon D40. It's the entry level digital SLR camera for us amateurs. By the way, I have no idea what SLR means. I have, however, read some great beginner articles at Jeff Corman Photography Studio website.

You may have noticed some of the photos from yesterday post, Dale's Birthday party, were pretty darn good. It was the camera! Every setting was on auto and I just pressed the button. I'm excited, intrigued and inspired by my peak into learning about photography. Naturally I hope I can put what I learn to use immediately to take captivating, awe-inspiring, award-winning photos.

ha ha ha ho ho ho,... oh, I'm cracking myself up... It may take a while, a long while, but I feel determined to learn more about photography. I have a lot of milestones to record here!

I better get busy! Signing off.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Sporty Forty

A birthday to celebrate? We love to celebrate! Our friend, Dale, recently turned 4-0.

We've all heard the "40 is the new 30" phrase being bandied about these days. In the case of Dale, it's just may be true. In preparation for his birthday, he completed a half Iron Man. The show-off!

His wife, Nancy, served up some scrumptious food and you can check it out on her blog here.

We relaxed on the deck for a while. As some of us are a bit older than Dale....ehemmm, not by much, just wanted to make that clear... we gave him the news on what to expect.

We included an explanation of the new gear Dale would be needing for all his sports activities. "Dale, you'll be needing this to hold up the family jewels, and fight the effects of gravity and aging!"

She did not appear amused. Could it be because she will be turning 40 this year as well and only wonders what eye-opening information and incredible, keepsake quality gifts she will be receiving?

Ok, back to the celebrating...

and the relaxing...

Dale's girls, Alison and Madison, helped make the evening special.

As did cake and ice cream...

Happy 40th birthday, Dale!!! We love you.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Girls Can Drive Boats, Too

Do you have a hobby that brings you deep happiness? One that refreshes your outlook? One that you are able to share with your family?

How about boating? My family had a boat since I was able to look the family beagle in the eye. Sometimes we would go boating in lakes near home and once a year in the Gulf of Mexico, after hauling the boat and four children in a station wagon for more than 20 hours straight. Were my parents crazy??? Oh, the memories.

My husband and I walked the gang plank a few years ago and bought a boat and on Friday, we hauled it over to Milford Lake. Milford is a beautiful lake with limited development along it's shores. A couple of marinas, some beautiful wooded campgrounds and two towns: Milford and Wakefield grace it's shores. The lake is big enough to anchor peacefully, run the throttle full out or turn circles draggin' a tube.

This boating trip included some firsts. On the way we needed to stop at a marina to by a plug...without a plug the boat sinks and ours was mysteriously missing. After several years of tubing, the older boys were ready for something new, so at the marina they picked out a knee board and off we went.

The weather was gorgeous, low 80s, sparse, white, bushy clouds and no wind. As the day wore on thunderclouds formed on the horizon and rather than be threatening, they added to the beauty of the day. The boat has been in the neighbor's barn for six months, so there was a long moment of silent prayer and hopeful thoughts, when my husband turned the key. After a few false-starts and sputters the boat hummed to life and we cruised into the lake.

Not to waste an ounce of gold-laced gas, we threw a kid in the water right away. Knee-board, shmee-board, Mason conquered it in a flash. By the end of the day, he figured out how to turn backwards and board in reverse. Dane was next and he, too, took to the knee-board like a natural. Later in the day, he rode the tube, which by that point felt rather easy for him to he did some hotdogging. He turned backwards and showed us his rear, rolled over to get a good tan and stood no-hands. At 25 miles an hour, I was laughing one moment and sucking air the next. He didn't fall off until we needed to slow down.

Spencer waited patiently while the older boys rode the new knee-board. You see, Spencer has enjoyed watching for several years. During thefinal outing late last summer, he rode the tube once. Look out, this year, the little man is ready! He hit the tube full of excitement. We have developed hand signals over the years...slower, faster, I'm done, turn, circles, just right. At first his hand was stuck in the faster signal and then it moved directly to circles. Circles are where you drive the boat in circles so you can run over your own wake. Our boat makes a rather large wake for it's size. Not good for water-skiing, great for tubing! The sheer delight on his face after hitting the big waves made us all crack up.

When we got hungry we headed for Nudee Beach. We've never seen anyone nude there, just lots of boats...only this year, no beach. The lake is up 10-12 feet, so the usual beach is under-water. We did find a few feet of mud off to the side where we anchored. Reaching land was an adventure because the mud/sand of shore was quicksand. "Honey, could you throw me a life preserver. Well, no, I'm not drowning exactly."

After chowing down, a little more knee-boarding and tubing, we headed back to the dock. Bart and I take turns backing the trailer into the water or driving the boat onto the trailer. It was my turn to drive the boat onto the trailer. Girls, I'm sad to report sexism is alive and well. It kind of cracks me up. As I drive the boat toward the trailer, the fisherman and other ski boat operators (almost all male) will stop what they are doing mid-activity to stare...not just look, stare. If I manage to drive the boat on first try, their jaws drop open and I get comments ranging from "Good Job there, little lady" to an astonished "Wooooow". I once heard "How'd you learn that???" Uh, let's see, probably the same way you did! Yesterday... two "Good Job"s. Noone notices when Bart drives the boat on. The most satisfying comments come from the other gals, "That was great", "I need to just try it!"

We drove home, unpacked, took showers and headed for deep slumbers. A good day - full of new memories.

I'd love to hear about your favorite hobby!

Note: You may now comment without needing a userid and password, so I hope you will share your thoughts.

Friday, June 20, 2008

My Little Davids Take on Goaliath

When we finished the house last spring, we had a concrete pad poured outside the garage. It was rather small and in our haste to complete the project we didn't pay close attention to the steady downhill incline of the driveway until we had a bit of a water issue.

We knew we needed to address the "puddles" that formed with each rain, but much more importantly we needed more room for the boys to have a basketball area. So we had the wonderful earth-moving man and his concrete pouring sidekick make a visit to our house.


Isn't it beautiful? Something is missing though. Yes, something is definitely missing!

Where we live, we have mighty Kansas winds. We also have three mighty boys. Often the three multiple to four, five, six or more boys. Girls, too! What's missing is a heavy-duty basketball goal. Our solution, the GOALIATH.

The GOALIATH means business. It's not for any meek, reserved, wishy-washy b-ball players.

My two oldest boys and my husband began to assemble this behemoth system.

I noticed that my 14-year-old was READING THE DIRECTIONS. Sniff sniff, I'm so proud!

Later I caught him teaching his father how to read the directions! Who knew the GOALIATH would be a miracle worker.

The hanging day came. People from miles around came to help. Well, ok, it was just our neighbor, Matt. They worked, sweated,... worked and sweated some more, until they accomplished the unbelievable, the GOALIATH was fully assembled.

See that box up there... it's a light.

Yup! We have 24-hour basketball playing capabilities, right here at our very own home!

Aaahhh, no more extra "puddles" and a great area for basketball playing. You should see Bailey, the dog, play. She was telling me all about it here, and I think she may be drafted.

Here are my boys making their NBA tryout tape...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Memorable Garden Tour ?

I've been thinking about giving you a link to another blog for the last day or so...actually more like obsessing about it. It keeps popping into my mind at all kinds of strange times during the day and night. It would be a link to my next door neighbor and friend, The Country Doctor's Wife's blog. Why would I link to one of her posts when many of you already read her blog?
When many of you may have actually come from her blog to get to this blog!!! Well, it's because I deeply loved this particular post. It was imaginative, clever, unexpected, hilarious and inspiring. That's why! So here you go...

The Country Doctor's Wife

P.S. The Country Doctor's Wife lent me one of her Beverly Nichols books and I am chuckling my way through a series of lessons on gardening.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Father's Day Meal - Unexpected Hit

On Father's Day, the whole family piled into the car to go out to lunch and then grocery shopping. Grocery shopping? I know, strange! Anyway, on the way I was reading cookbooks...just in the mood for something new and since it was Father's Day, a new special dish for dinner seemed in order.

My new favorite cookbook is Tyler's Ultimate by Tyler Florence, because it has easy-to-make, savory recipes. Perfect for a house full of boys. I love the format - recipe on the left and mouthwatering picture on the right. A few weeks ago, I made the Spaghetti and Meatballs to the deep pleasure of my family.

I kept turning back to the page with the Crab Cakes, so I asked The Father what he thought. He said it sounded great.

Five portions of crab cakes and sauted vegetables were served up. Crab cakes are a bit out of the realm of food likes for the three boys. To my astonishment, the vote was 4 out of 5 for having this meal again. Pretty good, Tyler! Thanks.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Creatures of the Deep

My middleman had three friends over on Friday. After the furious, unforgiving tornadoes in the area last week, this day's gorgeous weather was a welcome change. The boys headed out the back door to the pond. They stripped to their underdrawers and dove in.

After an hour and a half of mayhem and fun...

I yelled for them to come in so we could get going to a ball game. Dane jumped in the shower. Mason, my oldest, came upstairs and calmly said, "Uh, Mom. Dane says he can't go because he has leeches." Say again...

I knocked on the bathroom door and asked to be let in, not likely with a 12-year-old boy, but surprisingly the door opened. Uh oh. Sure enough, LEECHES! I don't recall anything in the Mom Job Description about LEECHES!

He explained that he had already removed a 2" one from underneath his, well, ummm... you get the idea. He still had bazillions of teeny, tiny leeches on his hands and pretty much everywhere around the underwear region! We worked at picking them off his hands for a few minutes when an idea dawned and I said, "Lather up, let's see if we can sufficate these little dudes!" Whew, it worked!

I went up stairs to break the incredible news to the other boys. Did you happen to hear them screaming? To assuade the look of panic on one boy's face I said something like "In the old days, medical professionals used leeches for medicinal purposes." Confusing them as a distraction is usually a good technique. One of the boys found a one and one-half incher between his toes and yelled, "GET. IT. OFF!" Thankfully that one was the lone ranger among these three boys.
Now then, let's just put this little encounter with leeches, behind us...full body shudder.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day

Here's a video of the sacrifices, bravery and devotion of Dads.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Alma, Where Landscaping Work Will Get You an Ice Cream

A quiet, quaint, small town rests in a valley about 20 minutes south of us: Alma, the city of native stone. Some uniquely crafted limestone homes can be found in Alma...hmmm, maybe a good post for the future. Also, in Alma, a funeral chapel. One of ours that was in desperate need of some landscape TLC. The bushes had engulfed the front of the building in a way that made me think they might just swallow the building whole. The dead twigs seemed to be strangling the flowers and the dandelions were having a party. So the hubby and I packed up ourselves and the three boys, and headed over to tackle the job.

Specific instructions, and days and days of pep talks seemed to work wonders. Each boy attacked,, dove into, ...uh, no, made an effort at his assigned task.

Does stopping to have one's picture taken mean that Dad has to do more work?

"I will organize everything in the back of this truck. All of you - rake, trim, mow, weed and haul!" hee hee hee, I kid. This guy worked as hard as the rest of 'em!

A passing, official-looking helicopter seems like a good reason for a break!

All of the effort paid off, because the funeral chapel looks tended, loved, and cared for now! See...

Note: I may need a camera tripod, so as not to make roof overhangs appear to be hanging crooked!

You might think the boys were moaning and dragging their feet... well, a moan or two, but we were offering pizza for lunch to build up strength for the job and ice cream once the wilderness was tamed.

This inspired, little walk-up eatery is worth a visit. Hamburgers, bierocks, fresh-squeezed lemonade and ice cream!

You may also sort through and buy lovely potted plants, if you wish. Alma, an unexpected afternoon entertainment.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Spencer Plays Ball

As is usual for the ball games, we start with a few sips of Vault, hee hee, WATER in the dugout as the coaches discuss the game plan.

Let's make sure that homeplate is firmly in place,

assume the ready position and...

BAM! It's a double.

"I'm feelin' good."

After the game, the coach gives a "way to go" on the win and begins to discuss, with his rapt audience of... Spencer, the finer points in life.

Dang, he's cute!

When you receive a "stickers" fruit snack, it's imperative that you put it all over your face before you eat it. Little league baseball...a dream to a whole bunch of young boys.