Saturday, September 17, 2011

It's in our Nature

Lots of Nature related things are going on around here, as usual. That, and some running and some good food, pretty much sums up the theme of this post (and many other posts). I like to post these rather mundane things sometimes to keep a journal of our lives and to keep my in-laws (who are in Kyiv, Ukraine for another year) and friends & family posted on our exciting lives (who doesn't think grasshoppers and huckleberries are exciting?). So I apologize for boring anybody, but c'est la vie.

The Love Bug

Eleanor's pet grasshopper lived with us for about 4 days before making his way to the Great Beyond. Grassy had some health problems when Eleanor rescued him from the sidewalk - he couldn't walk, hop, flit, or flutter about. Eleanor was a doting nurse to the poor guy (or girl?). She fed and watered him regularly, and discovered that Grassy really liked the rose petals from our flower bed. It was an incredible experience to see her usually holding him in one hand and feeding him with the other. Grassy ate voraciously, regardless of his position, whether lying on his back, lying in Ellie's hand, or stretched out on the walkway. When Eleanor placed drops of water in the flower petals, Grassy slurped up the water like a puppy. I never thought I'd get attached to a grasshopper, but Grassy won us all over. Cute little thing. He's on to greener pastures now, hopefully with his hoppers back in order.

The Great Outdoors

We took the kids on a hike around Horseshoe Lake last week, then made the extra little jaunt over to Cave Falls (Yellowstone). Last time we came to Cave Falls (4 years ago), there was a cave. It has now collapsed and the large cavern is just a pile of rocks. The Falls are still as lovely as ever.

Huckleberry ice cream

Oh, as an unexpected surprise while hiking around Horseshoe Lake, we came upon tons (I exaggerate) of wild huckleberries (are there such thing as cultivated huckleberries?). It's somewhat bewildering that it takes 2 hours to pick 2 cups of the little gems (okay, I'm exaggerating again - but it did take a long time). Turns out that two cups of the berries is just what you need to make about 1 1/2 quarts of delicious, fresh homemade huckleberry ice cream.

A Tale of A Tail
Oliver arranged a Lizard-catching Expedition last week. All I had to do was provide transportation, food, and moral support. Jeff and Sam were on another overnight campout, so the rest of us, along with Oliver's friend Ethan, climbed the "R" Mountain in the heat of the afternoon. It's a short but steep hike, and everyone did great. Except for the poor lizards we caught. I still feel awful about "Rocky" who lost his tail, then died hours later. :(
Kids and lizards. Charlotte is the only one with my kind of sense here - she's holding a paper flower instead of the slippery creatures the others are handling.

Since we couldn't bring home a lizard, (Mom said!), Eleanor wanted to bring home a lizard's tail. She wasn't happy when I said no. No. No. No. Absolutely not. We compromised by taking a picture of the nasty thing. Still, she wasn't happy to leave it behind...(no pun intended!).

Which Witch?

Charlotte and I have been enjoying each other's company while everyone else is in school, but I think she gets tired of me sometimes. We checked out this Witch Puppet from the library, and the Witch quickly replaced me as her buddy. Hmm.
Charlotte has been carrying her new little friend around with her ever since, even dressing to match.
It's going to be a sad day when we have to return Witchy to the library. But then I'll get my Charlotte back all to myself. No, I'm not jealous. Not jealous. I am not. Really. Not a bit. (Poor me...)

Running and Running
Sam's on the Junior High Cross-Country team. It's been fun to watch him race, although I do have those Mommy moments when I worry if he's having a good time, if he ate enough, if he's staying hydrated, if he's safe, if he's.... "Oh, Mom'" Sam groans, "I'm okay!" Okay.

Speaking of races, as a last minute thing I ran a local 10K a week ago yesterday. It was a fund raiser for Make-A-Wish. The course was all hills - long steep hills up the first half, then down the same hills the second half. Luckily these are the very same hills I train on, so I knew what was coming and I was conditioned to them. Somehow I ran my fastest 10K yet at an average of 7:38 minute miles (I took full advantage of the fast downhills to get that average - my uphills were like 8:30 minute miles). The race was tiny (like 30 people), and I finished 3rd overall for men and women, and 2nd for women. Oh, and I finally figured out the RUSH Triathlon times (silly me - you have to actually click on your name to get your splits! Who'd have thought?).

Fall(-ing for) Food
Autumn is visiting today, so it was a perfect day for soup and bread. This Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup is one of my favorites. You make the soup in one large pot, and the cream sauce in a smaller pot, then combine in the large pot.

Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup
4 Cups cooked chicken, cubed
4 Celery stalks, chopped
4 Large Carrots, sliced
1 Med. Onion, chopped
1 scant tsp. celery salt
1 scant tsp. onion salt
1 scant tsp. garlic salt (OR 3 Tsp. any salt)
1/2 tsp. Poultry Seasoning
Chicken broth or bouillon to cover above (about 8-10 cups)

2-4 cups Dry Egg noodles

Combine chicken, salts, poultry seasoning, celery, onion and carrots and broth to cover; boil, then add noodles. Cook 15 minutes or until done.

Make Cream Sauce:
3/4 Cup butter, melted (or melt in pot)
3/4 Cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt (optional)
3/4 tsp. pepper
1 qt (4 Cups) Milk

In a large pot, combine melted butter and flour, mixing until smooth and thick. Add milk gradually, letting it thicken a little at a time, stirring often. Stir in salt and pepper. For a thicker soup, let the cream sauce cook (stirring often) until thickened. Add to soup once the noodles are done.

Garlic Pull-Apart Bread

This is the perfect bread to go along with the soup. First I make a regular bread machine rolls recipe:
1 cup Milk (warmed on high in microwave for 1 minute)
1/2 cup butter (softened in the microwave in the same cup I warmed the milk in)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten (I whisk them in the same milk/butter cup)
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
4 cups Bread Flour
1 Tbs. Instant Yeast

In bread machine, combine in order given. Set to dough cycle (You can do this in a regular Kitchen Aid or Bosch type mixer, too - just make dough and let rise).
Using about 3/4 of the dough, I make the Pull-Apart Bread. (I use the other 1/4 to make 6-8 regular rolls).
Garlic Pull-Apart Bread
Melt 2 Tbs. butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add 2-3 tsp. minced garlic and saute 3 minutes.
Roll dough into an 8 x 12 inch rectangle. Spread garlic mixture over top of dough. Cut into 4 strips vertically, then horizontally to get 16 (3x2 inch) pieces. Place pieces in a greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pan. (The arrangement will look like an accordion pleat.) I tip the loaf pan up a little to help stack the rectangles, turning each one with a corner up opposite to the rectangle before and after so it alternates. When I'm done, I set the pan down and move everything to fill the pan evenly. Cover with a cloth and let rise in a warm place until slices fill pan, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Bake about 30 minutes, until golden brown, placing foil on top after 10 minutes. Immediately invert bread onto a wire rack; cool slightly. Serve warm. Makes 1 loaf. Serves 8.

Pumpkin Pie Cake
To round out the comfort food dinner tonight, I made this easy and low-calorie (KIDDING!) dessert.

1 can (15 oz) solid pack pumpkin
1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
3 eggs
1 Cup sugar
4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 package (18 1/4 oz) yellow cake mix (white cake mix works, too)
3/4 Cup butter or margarine, melted
1 1/2 Cups chopped walnuts (optional)

In a mixing bowl, mix pumpkin, milk, eggs, sugar, and spice. Pour into a greased 9x13 baking pan. Sprinkle with the dry cake mix, then drizzle melted butter over the top (it's totally fine if there are dry patches). Top with walnuts, if you want. Bake at 350F for 1 hour or until knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream if you want.

Juicy Apples
Not the best pictures, but you can get the general idea of how our apple juicing is coming along - it's fun and everyone can help. Charlotte was off playing with the witch puppet, but she could've helped if she'd wanted.


  1. I very much like the non-boring pictures of your very eventful life.

  2. Nancy, I just love you. Feel free to keep saying nice things to me. (I'd love you even if you didn't say nice things...probably). Hee-hee ;)

  3. Yummy! The ice cream, the soup, the cake. I wish I lived a more balanced life like you do. I love the eating, but not the running to work it all off :)
    And we definitely need to check out that witch puppet for Sadie. It was adorable. Sadie would love it as a friend for a week? Was it in a kit? or do they check out puppets on their own?

  4. you're so punny AND funny, steph! can i come over for dinner?

  5. Thanks so much; we do really enjoy knowing about the normal life you are living so well! We love you

  6. oh, fall at your house is MAGIC! STeph, you're a rock star runner and baker and cooker and ICE CREAMER! I'm so excited to try your recipes--especially that pull apart bread and soup. I think I'll be making that tonight! thanks for being so amazing/great/and posting all those recipes!