Thursday, June 30, 2011

Choosing to Be Adventurous

Whenever one of my kids has a birthday, he is allowed to choose the dinner menu and birthday dessert. This is something my mom did when I was a kid. I remember usually choosing meatloaf for supper and banana cake (but of course!) for dessert on my birthday.

At intervals all year long, when one of the boys is especially enjoying a meal or a cake, he inevitably will say This is what I want to have on my birthday!  I hear it over and over again. But when the birthday finally rolls around, he can't seem to remember what it was that he wanted so badly to have on his day.

This time Samuel had the same problem and took several days to finalize a menu. He was not wanting to repeat his usual favorites- pizza and carrot cake. He wanted something different. And he wanted an appetizer.

He's eleven and wants an appetizer.

I've created a monster.

He knew immediately that the appetizer had to be cheesy bread sticks dipped in sauce like they serve at the gourmet pizza shop.
So we made bread sticks. Our friend Karen suggested a Tasty Kitchen recipe called Easy Peasy Bread Sticks, which were indeed easy, peasy and very much like the restaurant's version. Samuel was very pleased and there was not a crust left after dinner. We'll probably make them again sometime.

Continuing with the desire to have something "different" Samuel finally chose, after agonizing analysis of possibilities, lemon meringue pie for his birthday dessert. I don't think he has ever had lemon meringue pie so it was truly an adventurous choice.
I put Samuel at the mixer manning the beating of the egg whites while I cooked the lemon filling. (Peter squeezed about ten lemons for me.) The egg whites got over beaten (something I have never seen before, frankly) so they weren't as light and fluffy as usual, but still perfectly edible and good. Such is cooking with kids.

We all enjoyed the lemon pie but Samuel decided he doesn't like meringue so I don't expect it to be requested again in the future.

That's okay though because there is a whole world of dessert options out there to explore.

I'm thankful for kids with adventurous palates.

Birthday Boy Part 2

Today was another birthday for a boy in the family.

In 2000 we found out that our family was not yet complete after all.

And in 2002 he got a baby brother who has been his side kick every since.

This year I was so, ah, "busy", taking care of that little boy, his side kick baby brother, his grandmother and preparing for his big sister's wedding that the best I could do with his cake decorations was some Bob the Builder flotsam from Walmart.

Everyone wants these two munchkins back.

But they just continue to grow and change. There's no slowing them down.

This was the year they got to ride on Thomas the Tank Engine!

He still has the same great smile!

Our little boys becoming big boys.

And now he's eleven! He celebrated with lemon meringue pie that he helped make.

Happy Birthday, Sammy!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Birthday Boy

It's birthday week here on the homestead. Sunday was the first celebration.

Looking at these photos you would think this was a kid's birthday. Certainly most of the guests were children...

...and babies.

But this celebration was for a big kid in a man's body who doesn't mind sharing his special day with a bunch of little people.

We have some pretty special sons who love children and babies and know how to relate.

Happy Birthday, Neal!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Creeping Carpets

One of the gardens I saw last week during the garden tour used a lot of creeping thymes and groundcovers.  These diminutive plants were so beautiful in their spreading habits in rock gardens...

....along walk ways....

....and even the stairs.

These creeping thymes require very little root contact with the soil so they can spread their growth over rock or concrete like no other plant. Hearty little souls, they form a carpet that can even withstand foot traffic.

The way this gardener utilized these qualities was so charming in their garden!

Sedums are another group of plants that require little soil contact. As succulents they can also take the extra heat generated by warm stone. I really enjoyed seeing these healthy plants growing in the nooks and crannies of the garden and the cracks and crevices of the patios.

I'm definitely inspired to find more varieties of this tiny garden occupant to add to my gardens.

My latest attempts have been foiled by my chicken's scratching but I am not going to give up!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Our Summer Solstice

I've complained about the Oregon weather often enough here this year that it is only right that I now acknowledge that summer has finally arrived in the Great Northwest.

More or less. We've had two or three 80 degree days this month. It's a good start!

On the summer solstice, we had a lovely sunshiney day, warm but not too much, the mountain wind was quiet, the sky was bright azure blue. We lingered on the deck after dinner through the long sunset, watching the farmer rake his hay across the road and smelling the promise of more summer.

Despite the lack of heat, my flower gardens are thriving so I felt compelled to stroll through and take some photos.

This is a new kid on the block. I have had blue lupine, a wild mountain flower, in my gardens for years but last year I planted this special variety from the nursery. This is its first bloom. What a beauty.

The underplantings of this creeping thyme have really spread into lovely carpets of chartreuse.

The rhodies are blooming though a bit later than usual.

Also, the irises- my most favorite called Repartee-

-and my second favorite Into the Night.

Floxglove have volunteered to be white this year instead of pink or yellow.

And I just love this Jupiter's beard! It's blooming near the honeysuckle in an unplanned coordination of color.

I'm ready for many more evenings like this.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


We have a new kitten. The kids brought her home when they returned from camp.

She has a cute little grey chin.

I'm actually wishing we had taken two kittens. We need good mousers around here.

She's very difficult to photograph because she is perpetually in motion.

There is a big wide world to explore.

She checks out every knook and cranny.

Are kittens not the cutest four legged creature on earth?

She's most certainly the cutest thing around here these days.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Strawberry Shortcake Wedding

Saturday, I made individual shortcakes for 120 guests. With the terribly late growing season here in Oregon this year there were no fresh strawberries to be had. I fretted for two weeks over how to make delicious strawberry shortcakes for my clients. In the end I found frozen Oregon berries that had acceptable flavor and one flat of freshly harvested berries- the picking has just begun here.

I was very happy with the presentation of the bridal party's elegant strawberry shortcake despite my difficulties in finding berries.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Garden Tour!

Saturday was the annual garden tour in our valley. I haven't been able to go for the last several years so I was determined to make it out this time despite the fact that I had two weddings to deliver desserts to that afternoon. I stayed up late the night before to prepare the wedding cake so that I could spend the next morning strolling through immaculately primped gardens.

It was worth the extra effort.

I am always so inspired by the gardens I visit on garden tours. There are so many styles of gardening, there are always ideas to glean and apply in my own.

I love the use of colors and textures in these rock gardens.

Such a perfect color combination!
The plants are so lush and happy.

The gardens that appeal to me especially are the ones with whimsy and surprise in the details. A garden should be more than plants and shrubs and trees. The little extras and creative imaginings make them fun.

I love the stick fence around the herb garden, the fire hydrant and the old bicycle.

Hhmmm.....I could do this.


A fountain repurposed with plantings of succulents- I could definitely do this with all the bird bath parts I have around here.

Boy do I love this combination of Lewisia and Thyme!

Now there's a whimsical scarecrow!

This chicken coop knocks my socks off. I love the crooked windows, the water pump, the screen door entrance to the chicken yard and the chicken little picket fence.

I've planted stacked pots like this before myself, but I have to say, I like the crookedness here!

But this takes the cake for garden whimsy and creative use of redneck hardware.

We've got several rusty old pick-up trucks on our green acres...
.....but none as cute as this one.