Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Washington County Fair- Day One: Ribbons, Ribbons, Ribbons!

It's a good thing that I bought a 'season pass' to the Washington County Fair this year, because we've been three times in the past week!  Day 1 was when we took in a 4-H Horse Show (the kids LOVED watching the riders try to balance an egg on a spoon while riding!) and then hurried towards the exhibit buildings to check out our entries. 
The kids had a great showing this year-- Alexandra won two blue ribbons (for her needlework heart and her acrylic painting), a red ribbon (for her dinosaur drawing), two white ribbons (for her felted picture and her small quilt) and a green ribbon (for her pastel mandala).

Justin won two red ribbons for his acrylic painting and crayon drawing (in 10 and under categories!), and a white ribbon for his watercolor painting. 
He had more fun playing "Spot the Artwork", though.  It was like a real-life Where's Waldo game.

Mama won a few ribbons, too-- two blues (for my dehydrated pineapple and my cherry fruit leather!), a red (for my travel sketch journal....I lost to a blurb-created photo album, so I'm confident that they didn't 'get my vision' ;-) and a white for my banana chips.  This tradition of ours is definitely a highlight of the summer!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Fair Entry Day

It's that time of the year again- we've been working on our Washington County Fair entries all year long (although, with Dave out of town, an upcoming Phoenix trip and a new puppy in the future, I did NOT go crazy with entries!)
The kids entered some artwork-  Alex entered Needlework (and the intake ladies remembered her from last year-- they even remembered that she won a big prize-- I don't know if that will work for her or against her :-)  She made her first quilt-  four squares that she's worked on and off on for the past year, and she backed, batted and bound it herself.  I swear her sewing machine is the slowest thing in the world (which, I suppose, is perfect for a 5 year old), but it took FOREVER to stitch it all together.  She persevered, however, and we'll see what her outcome is tomorrow.

She also entered some needle-felting that she did around Christmastime and a sweet felt heart she stitched at school.
Justin didn't quite know what was happening-- he brought his painting and drawings and seemed not to care that he was leaving them behind.  It will be interesting to see what his reaction is tomorrow when they're hanging up!

I entered my travel sketchbook from Everest Base Camp, a few photos and some dehydrated food (shocker, I know!-- I totally geeked out when I saw they had entries in dehydrated foods!).  More to come tomorrow with our adventures at the fair!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

It's HOMER!!!

 Hey...wait...that's not a German Shepherd!?!  
Nope-- it's Homer.  The most adorable little 10 week old basset hound puppy ever to place four paws on this Earth.  Seriously.  He lives at Uncle Sam and Auntie Carrie's house (thanks, Mandy for sharing your bundle of joy with us for the afternoon!).  And he's adorable.  Did I mention that?
 Alex and Homer played a lot of 'tag' and 'come and get me' before finally settling down (a bit).  Justin was initially really excited about the idea of a puppy, but got a little overwhelmed by the rambunctious little guy, so he found a good vantage point to observe from.
 Super sweet-- and those EARS!! (the puppy's ...not Carrie or Alex's)
Justin and Uncle Sam strike a pose.  Thanks for the puppy playdate, everyone-- the next time we'll bring our OWN puppy to meet Homer!

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Day of Joyful Overstimulation!

Gramps and Grams are in town, and they treated us to a day at ValleyFair.  Unfortunately, Daddy just left for his two week orientation at he missed out on the fun!
We arrived when the gates opened at 10am, and made it all the way until 5pm!  The kids were much braver than any of us anticipated, and made it on just about all of the Planet Snoopy kids' rides!  Justin's favorite was definitely this airplane.  He begged Sister to take him on it a second time, and she finally agreed!  Happiest moment EVER!
It sure helped to have a cabana to camp out in after lunch-- popcorn and lounge chairs refreshed us all! 

The weather was really strange-- it would be chilly and overcast, rain a bit and then be bright and sunny enough for us to swim a little at the Splash Park before repeating the whole cycle again.  My favorite Justin quote of the whole day was "Why are we DOING this?" right after he'd whoop with joy on a ride.
Thanks for a fantastic day!  We had a great time playing and experiencing many new things!


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Enter: Homemade Coconut Yogurt

This new dehydrator of mine is something else!  Two days ago I'd exhausted my supply of fresh fruit to dehydrate, become a fruit leather goddess and was looking for a new project to tackle.  Enter: Yogurt.

Because of the extremely low heat settings available, it's the perfect place to incubate yogurt!  We decided to try and make coconut yogurt (dairy-free).  I found an easy-enough "How to Make Homemade Coconut Milk Yogurt" recipe online and we got to work.
We used Trader Joe's coconut cream as a starting point for our yogurt. 
 Heating up the cream to 180 degrees and adding the gelatin.
 The hardest part was waiting for it to cool enough to add the starter culture (simply a 6 oz. pack of coconut yogurt- also from Trader Joe's) and jar it up!
 Ready for the dehydrator.  I simply removed all the shelves, leaving an open box for the jars to rest in for 18 hours (the places online all said 10-16) at 110 degrees.
 After incubation, we transferred to the fridge to let it thicken (it's still really runny at this point).  It took a day to gel to what I consider a yogurt-like consistency.  We sampled it mid-gelling (it was still kind of warm), and it was really tangy and still pretty runny-- I was worried that we'd not done it correctly, but just put it back in the fridge to see if more time helped.
 It did!  Lovely and creamy-- we didn't add much sweetener to the original yogurt mixture, because I didn't quite know how much to add.  Now we can take it out and add a few drops of vanilla stevia or honey (mmmm....honey) to taste.
It is so creamy and delicious!  Almost a velvety-texture-- simply delicious!  I think we'll be making our own yogurt from now on :-)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Life and Death on Balsam Way

How often is it that you get to experience both ends of the circle of life in one day?  We had an extraordinary adventure in life and death today- all within the confines of our property lines!
When we were at Gooseberry Falls, we were lucky enough to cross paths with the "Butterfly Man" who had a display set up in the visitor center.  He was handing out Monarch pupae to all the children.  Alex happily adopted a pair and they survived the perilous drive home to Woodbury. 
This morning, before my run, I noticed that one of the pupae had turned purple- which means there will be a hatching within the day! We kept a close eye on her all morning long-- but while we were waiting for our butterfly to hatch, we found something else that needed examining!
Apparently a mouse died on our front sidewalk while we were vacationing, and our friends the ants were working on polishing his tiny, perfect skeleton. 
Fascinating!  Alex spent a long time observing them, while Justin didn't find it quite interesting enough to hang around.
Soon after, our butterfly decided it was time to begin her struggle to break free of her pupa.  We were lucky enough to get to watch the entire thing!  She fought bravely, and then needed a few hours to let her wings unfurl and dry before we released her into the back yard. 

A day chock-full of learning and experiencing nature. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Puppy Prep: Feeding Station

A few weeks ago, Rorie and I came across this picture on Pinterest.  There was no link- no instructions, just a really cool idea for a hidden pet feeding station.
We searched online and found a great starting point from IKEA-
Rorie and the kids assembled the drawers (except the top one) and then it was up to Dave and me to cut off the legs (to lower the food drawer), stain and decorate (me...)
and install scissor hinges to the top flap to make a really awesome front-opening food storage space.
We cut holes in the extra drawer-bottom to drop the food bowls into (and reinforced beneath it with extra wood to support the weight of a curious cat)
The hardest part was finding plastic tubs with lids that fit inside (we used file boxes from Target, but still had to cut and sand them down to fit perfectly). 
 Basket on top holds leash, treat bag and clicker.
Percy approves of his new vantage point from which to taunt a puppy.

A comfy spot to relax for both canine and feline-- 
 Done and Done!  When feeding time is done, the drawer slides back in. 
So proud of our little IKEA Hack! 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Gooseberry Falls

These recent posts are so photo-heavy, but I can't help it!  I love the North Shore and am so thankful that I get to share it with my children!  For our last stop before heading home, we drove up to Gooseberry Falls State Park-  one of my favorite places in the WORLD!  Today the conditions were perfect-  just a few tourists, some warm sunshine, warm-ish water, and two adventurous grandparents who were willing to scramble over wet rocks with their adoring grandchildren.



Minnesota is beautiful, isn't it?