Friday, June 29, 2012

What goes well with a bag of tortilla chips?

Fact:  I could live off of tortilla chips and the various things you dip them into.
A bag of tortilla chips is hot commodity around here . . . probably right up there with milk, bread, and butter! Sad, but true. ;o)
And so I thought, heading into the weekend before the 4th, maybe you're looking for something new and tasty to serve?
First off, there is the "Black Bean Salsa" which I've made about seven times in the last few months--
Recipe for Black Bean Salsa:
2 cans black beans (drained)
1 12-oz bag of frozen corn (okay if it's still frozen when you are mixing it up)
1 purple onion, diced (typically I use 1/2-3/4 of the onion, just depends on how much onion flavor you want)
2 large tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/8-1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
*Throw all that together in a bowl*
In a small bowl mix--
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar (although last time I accidentally used balsamic and I really didn't notice much difference)
4 Tbsp. lime juice
*Whisk that together and pour over the black bean mixture*
And then I kind of taste as I go . . . if I have a fresh lime handy I like to squeeze that over everything.  I also add up to a tsp. of sea salt.  I keep the bag of chips handy and test it out.  If I don't have a lime I still might add more lime juice.  The lime, salt, and cilantro are crucial flavors!! It's so good (and I like to think healthy?) and I totally love it as my lunch!  It'll keep in the fridge for several days.
And then there is a new one "Hot Corn Dip" that I've made twice in the last week or two. *ahem*
Lots of melty cheese goodness going on there.  It is a bit more rich--definitely don't make this just for yourself, make sure there are a bunch of people to share it with.  Otherwise, you will keep eating and eating and then realize you probably should have stopped about 17 chips ago. (not that I would know . . .) ;o)
Recipe for Hot Corn Dip found here.  Those chipotle peppers give it a nice smoky spice that I just love.  And even with the fresh veggies on top it still tastes pretty awesome reheated the 2nd day!
Yummy!  I think the leftovers from last night will be my lunch today . . . ;o)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Thinking on . . .

"Gentleness means we wholly rely on God rather than our own strength to defend ourselves against difficulty or injustice.  It stems from trust in God's goodness and control over the situation. Gentleness isn't self abasement.  It's the mark of the wise woman who remains calm even in the face of other people's shortcomings."

"Quiet describes an attitude of calmness, serenity, and tranquilty.  It's being settled, steadfast, and peaceful.  A quiet disposition is like a still, peaceful pool of water, as opposed to a churning, agitated whirlpool.  A quiet spirit is the opposite of an anxious, distressed, disorderly, and clamorous one."
I've been working through this Bible study this summer--
(where the quotes came from!)
I really loved the explanation of the gentle and quiet spirit that 1 Peter 3:4 talks about.  I found both quotes quite convicting (and loved when my favorite word "steadfast" popped up--whenever I see that word I think God means it just for me . . .). ;o)  Staying calm in the face of others' shortcomings?   I'm thinking God has given me a whole bunch of "others" right here in my own house to practice my gentleness on.  It could use some brushing up.  ;o)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Dog Days?

So, it's kind of hot here.  I'm not sure *officially* what the temperature got to yesterday, but I saw some 110's and 112's on the home and car thermometers.  I felt bad for the kids sleeping on top bunks last night.  It would seem the insulation up there in attic land might not be the most stellar.
Do to the extreme heat Josh has taken to rearranging the living room.  He has forbidden us from using the front door or the back door, encouraging us instead to only go out through the garage door.  In case we forget there is a wingback blocking entrance (or exit) out front.  I did manage to sneak out the back door to water my pumpkins when I thought he wasn't looking, but suddenly he appeared at the window, "tsk-ing" me and shaking his finger in reprimand.  The garage door it is . . .
And as I sit here typing at a quarter to eight in the morning our thermometer is a few tenths of a degree from 90.  I do believe we are in for another extra hot one.  How thankful I am for air conditioning and crazy husbands who do their best to conserve that cool air. There's a lot of ice cream and popsicle eating going on here! ;o)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

June 17-23

Celebrating our 12th anniversary--photo courtesy of one of the resident midget photographers. ;o)
Mmmmm, popsicles on a hot day!
We stopped by Yanney Park in Kearney before violin lessons.  We picnicked, played at the splash park and discovered a mommy swan and her little cygnets.  The kids were so excited to see all the babies.
Movie night--I always love to count five little heads all huddled close.

Jackson had been talking about a water fight . . . I'm not sure if we were on the same wave-length.  I'm thinking fighting WITH water, he kind of appears to be waging war AGAINST the water.  Whatever the case, it made for a cool picture--I love how the light reflected off the helmet!
I looked out the window and discovered the youngest and oldest boy in the midst of an all-out mud war.  I think Owen lost.  (And I realize you might think "What a fun mom to let her kids get so dirty!" The truth is while it makes a good photo opportunity, deep down I DO NOT enjoy the clean up.  Particularly when it happens several times in a day for consecutive days in a row. *ahem*  However, as much as I don't like that part, I never want to take life so seriously that we can't get dirty.) ;o)
During the last few weeks Marissa has taken a huge interest in drawing.  She's been watching some videos, reading some books on the subject, and drawing (a lot!).  We were all impressed with her latest face attempt and she was really encouraged (a bit of perfectionist lurks inside her personality as well which ultimately leads to discouragement). 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

How does the garden grow?

I had hoped to do a garden this spring but got a later start than I intended because we were waiting to see what would happen with Josh's job interviews.  I almost gave up the idea completely because I didn't know how I could manage to dig up a garden space in the dry, rock hard, and weedy yard that we have.  A visit with my friend Brooke and her lovely garden gave me lots of inspiration on how to work with the small spaces that I had.  While I would love to have some huge rectangular plot I decided to use the spots right behind our house.  There was a bit of grass to contend with, but it was nothing overwhelming.  This is the view from the corner of the house looking north:
Closest to me are three cherry tomato plants and two basil plants (there was a whole row of cantaloupe that we had planted later but upon returning from Lincoln yesterday we discovered something had eaten every last one).  On the other side of the patio I have five more tomato plants (although the Better Boy is not looking too good--not sure what happened to it), two rows of leaf lettuce, some carrots, a cucumber plant and two zucchini.
And this is the view looking south:
These are my pumpkin plants (mixed in with a few volunteer sunflowers from the bird feeder).
They are really starting to go to town!  I'm not sure there is anything quite as thrilling as watching pumpkin plants grow!
On the other side of the stoop is my little cucumber patch:
In the front I have these two little quarter circle beds on either side of the sidewalk.  I took some Russian Sage from my mom's border and planted one at the back of each bed and then scattered lots of pink Zinnia and orange Cosmos seeds.  In the front is a line of blue Ageratum.  The Zinnias are just beginning to get buds.  Cosmos are crazy. ;o)
And then there is our front stoop.  The kids so kindly planted some corn seed they had found in the field.  They are so excited about their growth and I don't have the heart to pull them out . . .
In front of the corn is a red mum I just brought back from Lincoln.  I have one on the other side of the stoop too.  Hopefully they will fill out a bit by fall. Plants at all the Kaw Valley stands are 50% off right now, so if you need something, go now!  I also transplanted some of the Zinnia and Cosmos up there and another Russian Sage.  In the end I might have about $10 invested in the front yard (I brought back a huge sack of wood chips from my in-laws since they have a big pile after having some dead trees chipped).  Hopefully we'll have a little bit of color to enjoy.

All the gardening has been so much fun for me.  Perhaps it's the "farmer's daughter" coming out, but I love watching everything grow.  I'm out there checking on everything *several* times throughout the day and it always gives me something to look forward to after we've been away--I can't wait to see how everything is doing.  It's been several years since I've had available dirt to do anything with and I forgot how much I love plants.  It feels good to put down some roots. ;o)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

June 10-16

Another view of Chimney Rock
A "true" summer meal--grilled country-style ribs, watermelon, and some aweseomely yummy sweet corn.
The rain hasn't exactly been forthcoming (what little grass we have is near dead) but we did get a lovely rainbow.
Cherries in an aqua bowl--too pretty to eat!
(but we did anyway) ;o)
Josh opened our bedroom door and could tell there was somebody behind it, peeking around he discovered this young man finishing off a sucker (stolen from Josh's drawer, mind you).   This also explains the sucker stick and wrapper I found underneath the boys' bunkbed . . .  And perhaps why he has an issue with cavities? ;o)
Hydrangeas in bloom in my mother-in-law's garden--I just love them.
We hung out at my parents and at the pond on Saturday.  I got a kick out of these two cousins and their chocolatey mouths playing together, copying each other and generally having a grand old time.  ;o)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Whirlwind Weekend

On Thursday afternoon of last week, Josh and I found ourselves rather bored and decided we should tackle a few of the activities on our "Summer Fun List." Quite quickly the whole idea snowballed out of control and soon Josh was researching tents online and I was planning a three-day itinerary.
We left about 8:45 on Friday morning.  Our first stop was the Wal-mart in North Platte where we picked up our tent and got food supplies for our weekend.
Then we were on our way to Lake MacConaughy for a lunch picnic and some sand and splashing.

(Lake McConaughy, check!)
Next stop Chadron State Park!
The tent was set up with relative ease.
We roasted hot dogs and later s'mores.
We drove the scenic route.  It was really pretty--not so much a "majestic pretty" like you think of in Colorado, but more of a "peaceful pretty."
My favorite part was the whisper of the wind in the pines--it was a constant sound and especially lovely at night.
The kids rounded out the evening with a bit of fishing.
Overall, the camping experience was great (particularly considering the lack of experience both Josh and I have in this area!).  The kids loved it!  When I asked Jackson what was his favorite part of camping he informed me, "The sleeping." ;o)  Will we do it again?  Yes--but first Josh and I need to make an air mattress purchase . . . We are too old to sleep on the hard ground. ;o)
We were all up at the crack of dawn, in fact we were able to shower (at the bath house), have our breakfast, and pack up the entire campsite all before 7:30!!  Josh marveled at all the other sleeping families because as soon as the sun peeked over the horizon our tent was awake!
(Camping, check!)
We headed up towards South Dakota, driving through Custer State Park.  I was amused at the signs posted.
And thus warned, when we happened upon a grazing buffalo I did not get too close. ;o)
I wish he would have looked up so I could have gotten a better shot.
But then again, maybe it was better he paid me no mind. 
Next stop, Crazy Horse Monument.  Did you realize they've been working on it since 1948??
We enjoyed watching the documentary about the family behind all the work.
(Crazy Horse, check!)
We then made our way over to Mt. Rushmore and admired that for a bit.
(Rushmore, check!)
At this point we were passing lunchtime so we snacked on pretzels and fruit and continued onto Rapid City, SD.  There we crashed a kids' festival in the downtown square--splashing in fountains, petting chickens, and hula hooping the afternoon away.
That evening we checked into our hotel ((soft beds)) and enjoyed the pool and its massive slide (we were all quite shocked to discover such a big slide in an indoor hotel pool).  And then we slept (yay room darkening blinds!!). ;o)
The very last day involved the most driving.  We briefly drove into Ft. Robinson State Park.  If we had more time I would have liked to check out all the historical stuff there.  We then continued onto Scotts Bluff.
We drove up the "scenic" winding road while I attempted not to hyperventilate.  I'm told there were some awesome sights on the way up. Unfortunately, there will be no photographic evidence of that. ;o)  We all set off to hike over to the bluff.  I was found tearfully facing the inner wall next to the trail determined it was not in my best interest and returned with the youngest two boys to wait by the van.  Josh claims peering over the edge like a crazy person gazing out over the bluff was the highlight of the whole trip for him..  I leaned in on the way down and prayed hard that the van's brakes would not go out during our descent. Can you imagine? *shudders*  Josh didn't exceed 12 mph. Have I ever mentioned how much I despise heights?  I'm blaming it all on my mother. ;o)
(Stand on Scotts Bluff, check!)
With our feet back on solid ground and my crazy tucked safely away we set off to explore the Oregon Trail.  I have loved the history surrounding the Oregon Trail since I was a girl--I always wanted to be a pioneer.  Now that I'm older and a mother I have to say I can't fathom doing what these families did. 
We are actually standing where pioneer wagons once drove! So cool!
(Stand on the Oregon Trail, check!)
And finally our last stop, Chimney Rock! We explored the welcome center a bit and then set off for the remaining four hours of our trip, pulling into Arapahoe just after 9:00 p.m.
(Chimney Rock, check!)
It was a busy three days, but overall the kids have become pretty good travelers and because the trip was so full of activity a lot of van napping went on (which is always lovely).  Josh and I really enjoyed exploring the Sandhills of Nebraska, the Black Hills of South Dakota--very different scenery.  And I must say, Arapahoe now has nothing on being remote!  You get up in northwest Nebraska and you can see for miles and miles--uninterrupted rolling green hills and scarcely a tree. If you ever need to be alone I think it would be a great place to visit. ;o)
P.S.  Emmett wasn't overly photogenic the whole trip, I could probably do another posting just with photos of him and what we'll refer to as his "crazy spastic" moves.
P.S #2 It is possible I wasn't the best traveling companion/conversationalist and read four books over the course of three days.  I'm thankful for a hubby who weathered the silence graciously and knew to nudge me if he needed a response. ;o) 

Monday, June 11, 2012

June 3-9

The second night of camp we were graced by a lovely bright moon--we didn't even need the flashlights to navigate middle of the night bathroom visits.
Every grade has a "talent" they do for the talent show--this year our girls were moustached magicians.  It is possible the leaders enjoyed the moustaches even more than the girls . . . ;o)
Isabella loved her first camp experience!  The very last night she came and visited me a bit teary and homesick (after kind of blowing me off the rest of camp *ahem*) but otherwise she enjoyed all the activities and hanging out with all her old friends.
A day where I kind of forgot to take pictures (camp decompression and all) ;o) so I snapped an "around the house" pic of a quilt my grandma had made long ago.
A very "real life" picture--Josh and I decided on this afternoon to get-out-of-town for the weekend.  The house was a mess and we made a quick run to the library for some books to read for the trip.  I kept begging the kids to stop reading (true story, ask Josh) so that they would have something new to do while we traveled.  Marissa actually went and hid behind the couch with one of the books so I wouldn't see her. 
Admiring Lake McConaughy with my chilled littlest guys.  They loved splashing around but it was really windy--their little bodies literally shook with cold!  And as a side note, while traveling we got asked if Emmett and Owen were twins.  When I look at this picture I can see why.  The funny thing is they are our biggest age gap!
Mt. Rushmore--a first for everyone in the family (except me). 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

May 27-June 2

Something I like to call "rapture clouds."  Right?
My oldest and youngest playing together--so sweet!
An extra large dandelion seed from our nature walk at Cottonmill Park. I had Josh throw them in the air so I could try to photograph them.  This was the best I managed.

We found a baby robin who had been booted from his nest.  The kids (Emmett in particular) were so excited and brought him over to the house and then went and got an empty nest they had found.  The little birdie stopped his upset chirping as soon as they stuck him inside.  We noticed the parents at that point and brought the bird back over to them.  They promptly fed him.
Beautiful wheat.  Josh and I often stand at the back window and watch it ripple in the wind.  It's kind of like our own inland prairie ocean.  I will be so sad when all that remains is a field of stubble.
The same baby robin, still hanging around our house, the parents still chirping all bothered when we get close.  Emmett has had a very hard time following instructions to "LEAVE THE BIRD ALONE!!!"  We're hoping baby bird figures out how to fly soon--otherwise I'm not sure how safe he he'll be around these parts much longer (!  Emmett has been giving flying lessons, arms extended, "Flap like this birdie!"
Effective this afternoon--our home becomes a bachelor pad.  The girls and I are heading to Girls of Grace Camp with our Lincoln church.  The camp site is only located 45 minutes from our house, so we get to miss out on the long van trek out here. ;o)  I have to say, us ladies are pretty excited--we're all looking forward to the fellowship of good friends!