Baking + a new cat (yes, another one)

I have not, of course, been baking non-stop since September, when I last updated. I’ve had a few baking experiences and then came the holidays when baking went all out for a bit. Like with these little guys that we made last year, sans the outlines this time around.

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And then we made these tasty little temptations. Another repeat. And it will be repeated again, you can be sure. These are dangerously good. I ate two yesterday and three today. I’m going to take one in and make my intern eat it tomorrow just so I won’t pop another one in my mouth.

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And then there’s that bit about the cat. Why on earth would I get another cat? Well, we didn’t actually add headcount. We lost Nick Furry in July. Which was tough to take. Not that the other two weren’t too. But Nick? He was just a baby. Two years old. It doesn’t seem fair. And I don’t like things that aren’t fair. No matter how many times my mom tried to drill into me that life just isn’t.

On to the second part of this sad story. We waited a few months. But being surrounded by adorable felines during our volunteer shifts at Crash’s Landing, and wanting another younger cat to interact with Loki (the crazy boy), we eventually decided to add another feline to the family.

Zuzu!

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She’s a diva. Loves to get on shoulders. Sleeps on heads. Scampers down the stairs super fast. Is not bothered by the scoldings she gets when she attacks my 15-year-old, fragile dog. You get the picture.

We like her.

And to add to the furry crowd we have around here, albeit temporarily, we had a houseguest over the holidays. Rizzo the rat. He was charming and pretty cute. But he ate holes in my favorite pair of jeans. So I wasn’t entirely sad to have to take him back to school on Monday.

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Cluck, cluck

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Also titled “What I did with my Monday lunch break.”

New school. New adventures. New parent-volunteer responsibilities.

Enter chicken adoption.

The goal? Sit in a circle with nine other kids. Wait for teacher and parents (like me*) to place ruffled-feathered (literally!) chickens in the center. Recite a poem or sing a song, that you wrote yourself, to entice the chickens to come and sit in your lap.

Really. That’s the goal! The chicken that sits in your lap is YOUR chicken for the rest of the year.
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How did this go, you may ask?

Well, a chicken actually did sit in D’s lap. But the kid did NOT sing a song or recite the poem he wrote. He told me he forgot his paper and hadn’t memorized it. I was a little skeptical about what that might mean, but turns out most of the kids were ignoring the recitation/singing portion of the assignment and just talking directly to the chickens. Or tempting them with grass and weeds.

“Here, chicken!”

“Hey, I want that chicken!”

“Chicken! Please come sit in my lap!”
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The chickens were more concerned with trying to escape the circle. In fact, I think that’s why three of the kids ended up with feathered friends in their laps. My theory is that the birds were trying to leave the circle and then got “stuck” in the laps. DSC_1789 DSC_1792

By the end, the teacher was helping out the kids who were chicken-less by plunking chickens into laps. It worked!DSC_1815

D’s new buddy is named Thor. I think it’s a girl. But I’m sure she’s not taking any offense to the tough, manly name.DSC_1820 DSC_1825 DSC_1827

*I’ve never picked up a chicken before. I learned quickly that they move their wings out in a defensive posture as you approach. And picking them up below those wings is not the smartest move. I found that out with the first chicken who flapped her wings very mightily until I put her back down. After that, I smartened up.

A week in review

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Let’s go backward in time, shall we? Today. This afternoon. I made this scrumptious smoothie. Peach-nectarine bliss. Sounds like a good name for it, right? I haven’t made enough smoothies this summer. Seems like a goal for the next few weeks. Perhaps I’ll have some more tasty photos to share.

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This was from Friday. Friend. Backyard. Tent. All went well until the storms rolled in. Ooops!

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While they were setting up the tent, I snapped some garden photos. This one is one of the many stems of hollyhocks rising up along our deck railing. I planted the first one before Dev came home. A gift from my mom. And it nicely cooperates each year by returning. I planted some wildflower seeds in the backyard garden this year with no expectations, but one of them sprouted up nicely too.

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This is Lion. He looks ferocious, doesn’t he? Well, he’s not a warm and fuzzy guy, but he’s not thaaat bad. I definitely kept my distance for the photos, though, since he’s a bit persnickety about strangers getting anywhere near him. We had a lovely visit with our friends, and Lion, earlier this week. Which is where I shall leave off in the backtracking.

 

 

Handy is not my middle name

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I have bigger aspirations for things than what my actual talents can provide. But that didn’t stop me – and Dev – from tackling a build-your-own-shelves project.

The first part was fairly easy. Buy the stuff. Sand the boards. Put the brackets together. Prime and spray paint them. Stain the boards. (Stinky!)

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Then came the task of getting the shelves onto the wall.

My level confounds me. It has some laser thingy on it that seems fairly useless. But other people looked at me funny when I talked about this. So I’m thinking it must be me.

With the kid’s assistance, I managed to draw some straight lines. But what you don’t see pictured here (thankfully) was the painstaking, anxiety-causing process of getting the brackets into the wall. After I got over the melodrama I had to laugh. Of the six brackets, only the last two made it in without incident.

I broke one of my husband’s drill bits. Yes, I did.

And I stripped a couple of screws.

But, dang it, those shelves were up in time for Christmas (ahem, a bit late on my post, I know). The bottom-right bracket went in crooked, but we’re pretending it’s fine. If you ignore it, it might go away, right?

 

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Playing catch-up (as I always am)

So most of my September posts actually featured photos and events from August. The delay is not something the very anal part of my brain appreciates. I used to snap photos and blog about my day on the SAME DAY things happened. Obviously things have changed a bit. To appease my more orderly side, I’m sharing several from September, including two from today, so I feel sort of, well, “caught up.”

First are the chocolate chip cookies I made (along with the breadsticks from my previous post). From Against All Grain. Verrrrry easy to make. Verrrry yummy.

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Then came the first day of 5th grade. Wow! Summer went by so fast. So, so fast.IMG_6621

Then a couple of fun shots of the four-legged critters. (I always take pics of them.) The first one is of the two eldest gatos sitting on one of the brand-new chairs I nabbed at my company’s annual sale. They’re comfy and sturdy and fairly fashionable. (The chairs, I mean.) What more could you ask for?
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And these two shots were taken today as part of his ecology homework. In the first one he’s grinning big because he was excited about being “photobombed” by the squirrel who’s hanging out on the back fence. I’m not sure it counts as photobombing if you place yourself strategically in front of said squirrel to ensure he’s in the photo. But maybe? We made pizza today too, but the camera battery was dead so no photos were snapped. It’s the most delicious crust recipe I’ve tried to far from the new America’s Test Kitchen book.
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Oh, July…where have you gone!

Someone said just yesterday that it seems like it takes forever for July 4th to arrive, and once it does summer just speeds right by.

That may be true. It seems like we just celebrated Independence Day. Which happens to be my son’s favorite holiday. Even better than Christmas, he claims. And I did indeed take photos over that weekend. And afterward. I actually had a hot streak going with my camera for a bit there.

So with a bit of a delay, here are some photos of our July so far.

Starting with the Fourth, of course! I took lots and lots of photos, but most had my neighbors in them. I didn’t feel like getting all of those photo releases signed. Ha! So you get to see my son’s fireworks wagon – filled to the brim. He was giddy, even if it’s not apparent in these photos.

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The next day we went to Meijer Gardens (free passes from my company – woot!). It was bittersweet for me. The kiddo was hardly interested in the boats this year. The entire children’s garden elicited very little enthusiasm. I remember sitting several times for what seemed like hours as he pushed his little plastic boat around the “great lakes.” Sigh.

But he enjoyed our walk out to the farm garden and the trails.

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Then I made blueberry scones. Which I’m posting here specifically because my mom complained that I post sooo many food photos to my blog. The fact is, I don’t cook or bake enough so when I do…I have to take photos!

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And this was the prep for the faux cherry garcia frozen yogurt that I found and just HAD to make. Can you believe how adorable that cherry pitter is? And way less messy than the other one I had. I wasn’t thrilled with the yogurt, but I think I’ll try it again with a couple of change-ups. It was very close. We’ve also been using our ice cream maker for slushies. They’re Dev’s new obsession.

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Local goodness

The kiddo had this Friday off from school, so I took a day off from work as well. I love when we have opportunity to just hang out together. The thought was that we’d go to a movie and just enjoy the day. Which we did. But it ended up being jam-packed with more stuff (good stuff!) than either of us had imagined. Spontaneity!

Since we rarely get a chance to go out for breakfast, we made a plan to start things off with an outing. That meal can be the worst for me with my gluten-free issues. Pancakes, french toast and waffles are my traditional breakfast faves. And there aren’t a whole lot of places that serve up GF versions of those just yet.

We usually go to Marie Catrib’s where I nosh on their awesome sweet potato pancakes. But in my past searches, a highly recommended, but not really close by, restaurant kept popping up. Anna’s House offers quite a few GF menu items. It’s way up north, though, so we hadn’t gotten around to it yet. Yesterday was the day. I’m glad we did. I really liked the red velvet pancakes. Better yet, they’re soon to open a second location just five minutes away. Booyah!

After breakfast we shopped a bit (at Meijer…locally founded national grocery store chain!) and then headed over to the 11 a.m. showing of Spider-Man 2 (at Celebration Cinema…local theater chain!)

Then we went downtown to collect our race packets for the Riverbank Run (which, by the way, Dev and I ran this morning – more on that later). By then it was 2:30 and the popcorn high had worn off. So we decided to scope out a downtown eatery for a late lunch. He loves the mac ‘n cheese at Rockwell-Republic, so we grabbed a seat by the window and relaxed for a bit.

We then visited a local pharmacy (excitement!) to get a new prescription for our adorable diabetic-arthritic cat, Finn. And on our way home, we enjoyed one of the ultimate local GR experiences: the Downtown Market. We left with our usual Dorothy & Tony’s cheese popcorn (Dev is smitten), but also had the chance – finally! – to try Love’s Ice Cream. I like most ice cream, to be honest. But this really was an awesome dish of creamy goodness. Flavored with Madcap coffee. Oh, my, my!

My son has far more restraint than me. He always goes for the healthier gelatos and sorbetos when possible. In this case the triple berry sorberto. (He went with lemon gelato when we visited Eataly in Chicago last month.)

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What was going to be a simple movie-then-hang-out-at-home day turned into a bit of an adventure. A delicious one!

Catching up with the Smiths

What have we been up to lately?

Well, fall came and went. Luckily, we did get a chance to enjoy it before the snow took over. And? It’s Thanksgiving this week. That came up crazy fast!

We hiked.IMG_4269 IMG_4270

We hung out with some dinosaurs.IMG_4282

We did not visit the planetarium because it was closed, but that didn’t stop us from having some fun with the props.IMG_4284

We humiliated the kitten by placing a tiny baseball cap on his head. Go, Whitecaps!IMG_4262

We snuggled really close to him, too. IMG_4302

We manned our scooping/cleaning/petting shifts at Crash’s.IMG_4324

We got sick. Ugh. First the kid, then the parents. Thank goodness for Netflix!IMG_4331

We met some nice owls. IMG_4356

Dad started teaching him guitar, which makes him happy.IMG_4366

Smashing pumpkins and making pizza

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Can you tell school has started?

It’s the time of year when I feel like I can almost hear my free time whirling down the drain.

I don’t mean that in an awful way, really. It’s just that it takes a while to get back into the school routine and learn how to better manage our family time. Tighter schedule. Homework. Cross country. Playdate requests with school buddies. It’s all good.

I just have to squeeze in some time here and there to use my camera, process my photos and write down some words.

First came Halloween. Our first year of rejecting the “cute” costumes. He was adamant about being a zombie. So there he is, stylin’ hair-do and all. It rained. I was grumpy about having to walk around in it, but it was actually wasn’t as cold as I’d feared and my rain jacket did a nice job of keeping me fairly dry. He had a blast and that’s all that counts.

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That weekend visited Blandford Nature Center. It’s closed on Sundays, but the trails are all open for exploring. And we weren’t the only ones who had that idea. (We ran into one of his buddies from class too). Today’s weather proves that we have to take those sunny fall days when we can get them. Because the white stuff has descended on Michigan and the landscape begins to change oh-so fast.

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That goat is either Fuji or Wonder. Dev first met the goats during his summer camp adventures at Blandford. Apparently the goats were named after apple varieties. I’d never heard of the wonder variety before. But now I know!

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Then it was time to clean up the Halloween paraphernalia. I raked leaves while he smashed pumpkins to smithereens. Can you imagine how happy he was about that?

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When I saw the name of this recipe (The Best Gluten-Free Pizza Crust), I was a tiny bit skeptical. People just shouldn’t throw around the phrase “the best” without having some serious cred to back it up.

I do believe this one could be in the running, that’s for sure. It was super easy to make and tasted better than the mixes I had come to rely on. Even pressing it into the pan wasn’t a hassle. There was nothing gooey about it. Just a little extra brown rice on my fingers and it was ready for the oven.

I humored the boy with the pepperoni variety. The last photo shows him demoing how I should cut it into thirds so everyone had a section.

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Cheerful

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It’s how I feel after walking my dog on a beautiful summer night.

It’s how I feel after eating a tasty dinner grilled up by my husband – and having that dinner on our deck in the sunshine and breezes.

It’s how I feel when I finish mowing the lawn and the backyard looks as good as it ever will with its 16 different types of grasses at the same height for a small window of time.

It’s how I feel when I had shy of six hours asleep after arriving home from Chicagoland at 3:00 a.m. this morning, yet I’m perky enough to mow that aforementioned lawn, and take that aforementioned dog walk and even bake up a batch of raspberry muffins.

It’s how I feel at the prospect of settling down in our newly rearranged basement to watch Life of Pi with my two guys.

It’s how I feel knowing I have a vacation day tomorrow and that Dev and I are going to bicycle around Reeds Lake.

So how do you feel?

Ta-ta, spring!

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The weather the past few weeks has been simply splendiferous.

I’ve always been very fond of temperatures in the 70s. I practically hum with happiness on days with those temps. It’s warm enough to sit comfortably in the grass (or to read in the wagon), but not so hot that you sweat while you’re sitting there. Is there a place somewhere that has weather like this consistently? I might consider a move now that I’ve grown tired of the yin and yang of the cold-that-lasts-far-too-long winter and the heat-humidity of summer that seem to express the seasons in Michigan.

Sigh. That heat-humidity thing is coming today. The first day of summer, of course. It was bound to happen. I just sniffle a little at the thought of having to shut the windows and turn on the AC.

This pic was taken as I was stretched out on the front lawn on Father’s Day, chatting with Dev (from his perch in that wagon I mentioned) and gazing up through the branches, blissed out from the sunshine and the breeze. Ahhhhh.

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And then there are the flower photos, which will come with regularity as the blooms keep a-bloomin’. Those and pet photos. I’m dependable that way.

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