Monday, September 18, 2017

Cakes-- Impressive and Not

It's fall birthday season again around these parts. Last week we celebrated the first two birthdays. The new 10-year-old wanted a volcano cake, and we also happened to be studying volcanoes in school. Therefore, I decided to make his party "explosive" by having the children build their own "exploding" volcanoes during the week. Right after the fiery campfire lunch of hot dogs and just before the cake eating, the kids "set off" their creations.

And here is the volcano cake.

Molten sweetness

When he saw it, my birthday boy's eyes lit up. That made all the effort worth it. But really, it wasn't a hard cake to make, so it was really worth it. Plus all those dirty crumbles are no-bake cookie crumbles, and that makes any effort super-duper really, really worth it. All 10 candles went right in the crater and made a huge flame that looked cool spewing out of the volcano.

The 2-year-old's cake is a little under-whelming. I originally had plans to make two bundt cakes, stack them with one upside down, and frost it orange to make a pumpkin. Life got in the way, and I was too tired to stay up and make another cake. Instead, the morning of the birthday, I was struck by inspiration: my daughter's favorite thing is blueberries. She wants to eat them all the time. Also, I was really tired of frosting already. That could only mean one thing-- blueberry filling.

Pumpkin pound cake with blueberry filling
It's not creative or beautiful, but the birthday girl's eyes lit up as she realized those were blueberries. And that's what it's all about. 

And those are the first two cakes of fall birthday season.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Building Project-- Days 67 & 68

Let's work backwards. First, Day 68 (Thursday) saw no work. The kids told me it was because the carpenter didn't want to schedule an insulation delivery during the funeral we had at church. (I know it sounds crazy, but because sometimes our driveway can be blocked by funeral traffic, it's actually quite smart. )

Now. Something big happened on Day 67 (Wednesday). The Inspector came while I was here. I was a little nervous because I'm not brave when it comes to authority figures, but I grabbed the camera anyway and headed outside.

The Inspector's official county vehicle

And just so you know, the plans are no longer taped to the well cover; they are now inside the addition. That was news to me, but The Inspector must be super-smart because he had no problem finding them.

The plans in their new home

After looking at the framing and crawling around in the crawl space for a while, The Inspector signed off on the framing inspection. That's the good news.

The bad news? Well, I'm not sure he was amused by my picture-taking. I did ask first, but I did not ask him to smile. That seemed pushing it a little bit.

So, without further ado, I present to you, The Inspector.

Do you see that there are now 4 inspection stickers on the permit?

He wasn't what I was expecting, to be honest. No horn-rimmed glasses or pocket protector. Don't ask me why I was expecting that. No clipboard. Nothing official looking except a badge and the county vehicle. He just looked like a regular guy wearing a Pittsburgh Steelers hat and shirt. Ain't nothin' wrong with that!

Now, as a bonus, here's a picture of the brick work on the north side (since I didn't have the picture last time).

Pretty, isn't it?

Stay tuned for insulation (which I think is coming up next) AND a round of birthday cake pictures. I've got lots of opportunity for epic cake failure since I'm trying to make a volcano one day and a pumpkin the next.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Building Project-- Days 61-66

All kinds of crazy has been happening at our house lately. We've had company: my "baby" cousin bicycled all the way across the United States and came here before she returned home to Idaho. It was such a nice visit-- especially since I hadn't seen her in fifteen years! My parents came, too.

School has started and been interrupted by doctor's visits. 

And there is construction! I wish I had posted the pictures each day because so many things have been accomplished.

First, the electrical work was done. It was inspected yesterday.

Sometimes being grounded is a good thing :)

All done and ready for inspection

More carpentry work was done. The doors and windows finally came.

From the outside looking in

From the inside looking out

Holes were cut for heaters/air conditioners.

I guess a hole in the wall could be considered air conditioning, right?

And my beloved living room window came out.

Bye, bye dear window.

And plywood went up in its place-- temporarily, of course.

From the outside looking in

Other random construction work was accomplished.

The "dog box" all trimmed-up

And the masons are back at work with the exterior brick. That's noticeable.

First, the delivery. The son who loves things with wheels took the delivery pictures. 

Truck with bricks and necessary forklift

It's a Mack truck.

Forklift in action

Do you think it's a literal ton of bricks?

The bricks were all in place.

Now it was time for the masons to set up and get to work.

Tools of the trade. . . I don't know the name of this nifty brick picker-upper.

End of the first day of laying brick.

This last picture shows the east side. Yesterday was day 66, but I didn't get pictures. Now the north side is just as finished as the east side.

I'm not sure what's in store for today, but I'll bet the masons will be back, and perhaps an inspector will be checking out the framing.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Building Project-- Days 54-60 (and a sneak peak)

This past week was really slow again. We're still waiting for doors and windows. However, the electrical work started.

We'll have electricity!

And that's all I have to show you for the addition building project. BUT. . . 

I have lots of garden pictures--pretty sunflowers, a sneak peak at the fall pumpkin and squash harvest, and a cool bug.

I love the color of this one.

Our sunflower sentinels

Not yet orange. . .but a big one

Hidden away

Not sure what kind of hybrid this one is

I call this my perfect ugly green squash because its flesh is perfect and creamy.

Huge white pumpkin protected from deer by netting

This one looks like a butternut?


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Building Project- Days 49-53

It's been quiet on the building project around here. The inspector won't inspect the framing until the electrical work is done. It hasn't yet begun. Also, the windows and doors aren't arriving until later this week. The only thing that's happened this week is a bit of cleaning up. That's it. I don't even have a new picture.

Everybody gets a nice rest.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Miscellaneous Monday

Things have been so busy that I haven't had a chance to post some pictures I wanted to share.

First up are shots from the garden.

Tomatillo growing

Bird egg bean almost ready

Bees on sunflower

Closer to bees on the sunflower

JalapeƱos galore!

Here's a warning to all those who don't like garden pictures: I'm itching to get out in the garden with the camera today to capture some beautiful pumpkins and squash-- just in case the deer get through the netting laid on top of the pumpkins and don't mind the taste of the hot pepper spray we sprayed all over.

Next up is a picture of our cats. They don't really have individual names because we couldn't all agree on them. Most of us can't even tell them apart. Collectively they are The Black Ninja Cats. They are deadly to many, many outdoors creatures and leave offerings on our porch frequently. They do, however, "allow" a possum or two to share their food at night.

Our Ninjas

And speaking of critters. . . my son captured this frog at the worksite.

Camouflaged little frog

And who could forget about the eclipse? Around here it wasn't 100%, but we did get to see it. My oldest daughter and I were out and about at appointments and shopping, and people were so kind to share glasses so we could see it.

Here at the house, my husband was more creative. He and the rest of the kids built a contraption with foil and a long paper tube and a cardboard box and a recycled church bulletin to capture these images. My son said it was hard to get the camera at the right spot to take the picture, but I thought he did a good job.

In big news this week, our dishwasher is finally working again thanks to Mr. Gordon, our most excellent appliance repairman. He asked Peter to screw in the final screws. I just had to take a picture; you know how important that was to our little 3-year-old man! We thought he actually tried to leave with Mr. Gordon, but he told us he just wanted to open his van door for him.

Working on the dishwasher

I've often wondered if a dishwasher is actually helpful. I've had one ever since I moved out of my parents' house, but does it really save time and effort? After living without one for probably close to a month, I can say that my verdict is "YES!" I love our dishwasher and am so happy it is working again.

And last, but not least, out 14th wedding anniversary was last week.

Selfie at the game

How did we spend our anniversary? We went out for a baseball game with all the kids because that was when they had free tickets from the summer reading program at the library.

Beautiful night for a game
And as has happened every single time we've gone, the Hagerstown Suns lost big time. We keep hoping that next year will be the year we see them win. It was a sad game, but Big Tony entertained us with song and dance in the last couple of innings.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Craving Routine & Cucumber Salad

Over the course of my tenure as a mother, I’ve learned that I crave normal. Routine is easier on me and on the children. Same old, same old. I just can’t get enough of boring.

Of course, life around here is never boring. This summer brought chaos to our house, even more chaos than our seven children normally produce. For the last month or so, each morning before 7 a. m., we hear air compressors, nail guns, hammers, saws, or a machine (whose name I don’t know) that knocks holes in bricks. A backhoe now lives in our backyard, and my clothesline is temporarily dismantled.

The kids couldn’t be more thrilled. I’m fairly certain they couldn’t be more underfoot, but the carpenters take it all in stride, giving even the little ones important jobs along with a smile or two. So far my children have chipped way at mortar on bricks, held boards and chalk lines, carried wood and nails, and operated a forklift-crane sort of machine on a delivery truck. They also make sure to set out a water cooler and cups each day for the workers.

And despite the fact that their mother keeps trying to pull them away from the action to do their chores, the kids can (and do) tell you about each step of the building process so far. Their questions about what what comes next are endless, and every other sentence out of their mouths is about their new heroes, the men working on the new addition to the parsonage. 

The names of the workers fall from the lips of the children so often that you’d think they are family; they’re so nice to us that I wouldn’t mind if they were family, especially since, thanks to their skills and hard work, we’ll soon have some extra room in our home. 

This is the kind of chaos I can live with.


The garden is in full swing around here. Cucumbers, beans, zucchini, peppers, and even the blighted tomatoes are daily on our table. My husband’s favorite garden delight this summer is cucumber salad. I make a sour cream dressing that’s simple and soothing in the summertime heat. Simply peel and slice your cucumbers (and tomatoes and onions if you have some) and pour this dressing over the top, give it a quick stir, and you have summer in a bowl. My grandmother also used this dressing over lettuce.

Sour Cream Dressing for Cucumber Salad

1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp.  cider vinegar

Mix all ingredients and pour over cukes.

*This column ran in the Hancock News on August 24, 2017. (The pictures were not in the newspaper.)