Saturday, May 23, 2009

Heat of the Moment, Part II

Before I get to today's activities, here are a few shots of the creek from locations other than my yard. This is the creek below the waterfall:
And here it is further south--this is an area that is specifically reserved for anglers:

I began my day at the Farmer's Market, where I bought a giant cinnamon roll for breakfast:

I also bought a bag of mesclun lettuce (with pansies!) and some Carola potatoes, which I am very excited to try:




I bought a bunch of plants at my regular flower place yesterday because I wanted to plant the pots on the porch and the hanging baskets. I went a little crazy and bought more stuff than I really needed, so I had to call some pots that were in the basement into service. While I was already dirty and disgusting, I cleaned the porch, so here it is clean and pretty with all of the nice flowers planted:


Behind the church pew are my herbs: lemon and lime basil, flat leaf parsley, and sweet basil. There is also a pot reserved for the chives that I haven't purchased yet.


My hanging baskets are all petunias--purple and white. I'm trying something new this year that I hope will work out. I wanted the flowers in my hanging baskets to cascade down from the planters, so I cut holes in the coconut fiber liners and stuck the petunias through and then planted more on the top. I hope that when they grow and fill out, my vision will be realized, but we'll see.



I had a store credit at Lowe's, so I bought this three tiered plant stand to put in the corner of the back porch. This really makes the porch look nice--it's just what this side of the porch needed to look more complete. On the top shelf are my violas, then I have two pots of delphinium and alyssum on the lower shelves. The pots on the floor are verbena.



I put new mulch in the front flower bed where Mother and Father of Ken helped me plant some summer bulbs when they were here in March. I have a lot of stuff popping up, but nothing blooming yet.





The front porch with pretty new flowers:




The larger pot in the back has cosmos, alyssum, verbena, and a really pretty dahlia and the front two each have a dahlia and purple and white vinca:



The hanging basket. I know they look weird now, but I really think that when they grow and fill out, it will look really cool.




Kenna "helping:"







Once everything was planted, I reloaded my greenhouse with the the soil pellets that were left over from my first batch of seeds (which I also planted today). I had some seeds from Aunt of Ken to plant, so I prepared the greenhouse for them:









These seeds are so funny--they look like little Oreo cookies and I think they are a kind of flowering vine. They are popular among the members of my family and in my Grambi and Papaw's retirement community, where everyone has been asking for seeds from my aunt. I can't wait to see what they look like.





I'm also planning to plant tomatoes this year, but I want to wait another week to make sure that we stop getting below freezing at night. We've had about four nights in a row now of above freezing temperatures, so I should be able to plant tomatoes next weekend.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Sun and the Rainfall

To find out why McKenna is making this face, you have to read the whole post ;-)
Nothing very exciting has been going on here in Ken and McKenna land except for the weather. On Saturday, we had terrible storms in the afternoon and early evening and even some tornadoes north of here. The creek filled up and the water was muddy for about a day afterward:


The storms were caused by a cold front moving in on top of some really warm air, so the waterfall was steamy:



I'm sure you have been waiting anxiously to find out what else I have made with my green garlic.


Well, one of the dishes that I made was angel hair pasta with shrimp, asparagus, and green garlic in a white wine and lemon sauce topped with Parmesan shavings.




The flowers are still alive and have taken up residence in the hallway.




Today, it was finally sunny and warm, so Kenna and I spent the day working out on the porch. We took a break to walk around in the yard and I saw a snake in the creek. You can kind of see it on the right side of the photo, a little less than halfway up.



While I was trying to take pictures of the snake slithering around in the creek, Kenna found something in the bushes.



After she sniffed around and rolled in something smelly, Kenna wanted to run:



video


When she was tired, she collapsed at my feet and rolled onto her back for a belly rub. She was deliriously happy to get a belly rub, as you can see:



Saturday, May 16, 2009

Celebration

I offered to organize a reception in honor of the five people in our congregation that were Confirmed earlier this week, so I spent most of today baking. I started by making lemon cookies, which you can read all about here. So far, I have only made the cookies and will make the filling later, so this is a photo of a previous batch:


I also made my Grandma Nomie's icebox cookies, which have passed through at least six generations of my family. Here's the recipe:


2 c. brown sugar
1 c. butter
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 c. chopped nuts (I usually use pecans, but I left them out this time because some people have nut allergies.)
1 dash salt


Cream butter and sugar, then add eggs and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients and blend with the other ingredients just until they are mixed. Stir in nuts.


Divide dough into two rolls on a floured board. Wrap in plastic wrap or foil and put in the refrigerator or freezer for at least an hour or until you want to bake the cookies. Slice into 1/4 inch pieces and bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 350 degrees for about 6 to 10 minutes. They should be "set" but not too browned.


I accidentally baked mine at 400 degrees, which is the temperature in the original recipe, even though my Grambi told me that it should be 350. So, mine are a little darker than usual:




These cookies are great with lemonade and/or ice cream in the summer.


Next, I made Mother of Ken's cheese wafers--the recipe is below, but I only made half this time.


2 sticks butter, plus 1 tbsp.
1 lb. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
2 c. flour
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 c. pecans (I left the nuts out of these as well.)


Roast pecans on a baking sheet at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Let cool, then chop finely. Combine cheese, butter, flour, pepper, and cooled nuts. Divide the dough into two rolls on a floured board, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm. Slice into 1/4 inch wafers and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Salt to taste (I used grey sea salt this time).


I had to try a few to make sure the amount of salt was correct:




I also made my Grambi's coconut macaroons, her "most requested recipe."


14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
14 oz. sweetened shredded coconut
1 tsp. vanilla
2 extra large egg whites at room temperature
1/4 tsp. salt


Combine milk, coconut, and vanilla in large bowl. Beat egg whites and salt on high speed until medium-firm. Fold into coconut mixture.


Drop batter onto baking sheets lined with parchment or Silpat (you have to do this or they will never come off). Bake at 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until they are golden brown. Leave on baking sheets until they have cooled slightly and then complete cooling on wire rack.



Last, but not least, I made Prolos. This recipe came from Leah, who got it from someone at work, I think. This is easy to do:


1 bag "snap" pretzels
1-2 bags of Rolos (depending on how many you want to make)
Cashews, pecans, or any other nut that you prefer


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place pretzels in a single layer on a baking sheet and place one Rolo on each pretzel. Rolos in the bags are wrapped, so you have to unwrap them before you do this. Rolls of Rolos are not wrapped, but you will need a lot of them to get the same amount of candy that comes in the bag. Put the baking sheet in the oven for 4-5 minutes, or until the Rolos have softened. Then, remove the baking sheet from the oven and top each Rolo with one nut (I used pecans this time, but I also like cashews), smashing it slightly. The chocolate and caramel oozes into the holes in the pretzel. Cool on cookie sheets.


Here are my ingredients--I used two bags of Rolos, which yields a little over 100 Prolos.



Pretzels on the baking sheet:




Rolos on top of pretzels:






When Grandmother of Ken helps us make these during the holidays, her job is to unwrap the Rolos. She eats every other one, so if you have a 91 year old grandmother who can't be trusted around chocolate helping you, buy three bags. I think that by the time you are 91, you can eat as many Rolos as you want to eat and everyone else needs to work around you.




Here they are after I smashed the pecans into the Rolos:




Glamour shot!





I have a few other things to put out on the table as well, including these pretty flowers that I bought at the Farmer's Market this morning:







Now all I have to do is get everything set up tomorrow morning, but I have helpers, so it shouldn't be too bad.

Eat It

This morning, I got up bright and early to head down to the Farmer's Market. My primary purpose for going was to get some cut flowers to use as a centerpiece for the reception that I agreed to organize for the church tomorrow, but I found some other great stuff there, too. So, in the first installment of what I hope will become a regular feature of this blog, these are today's purchases.


First, I decided to buy something for breakfast because I knew that I would be spending all day baking (see the next post for details). I found a booth where a woman was selling baked goods and I chose an apricot scone and a Hungarian cake with blueberry topping. The flavors were okay, but whoever made them got too happy with the mixer because they were way over mixed and tough, so I won't be buying these again.
I also bought a head of red leaf lettuce and some green garlic from another man:


I have never had green garlic before, but I was really looking forward to trying it. Green garlic is a springtime delicacy that you can only find in Farmer's Markets and in your own yard if you grow your own garlic. This is what garlic looks like before it develops large bulbs and the season for green garlic is fairly short--May is the cut off in most places, although it might last longer here in the Northeast. Anyway, these look like tiny leeks and they have a delicate garlic flavor--not mild, but a delicately sharp garlic flavor if you can imagine that. You can eat it raw or cook it and I plan to try all different preparations--I'll let you know how it turns out.


After baking for a few hours this morning, I took a break to let the dishwasher run and to make lunch. I decided to make a dressing for my fresh red leaf lettuce out of the green garlic--I used one head/stalk/piece/whatever you call it of green garlic, roughly chopped, some mayonnaise, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. I don't have any measurements for you, I just did this until I got the consistency and taste that I wanted. Oh, and I had to add a little water. I blended it together in my mini-chopper because I killed my food processor making pie crust a few months ago (seriously--it was smoking and one part of it burned off).


When I had the consistency and taste that I wanted, I drizzled the dressing over a simple salad of lettuce and tomato and I warmed up an olive roll. This was so good! I am a big fan of simple foods with lots of flavor and this dressing is just that--a little spicy and tangy from the green garlic and lemon juice. I think that it would be even better with some herbs added--maybe parsley or chives. The main ingredient, the green garlic, was the strongest flavor and the lemon juice, salt, and pepper complimented it nicely.



What about the flowers, you ask? They'll show up in the next post, but they're beautiful. All in all, a fairly good experience at the Farmer's Market today and I can't wait to try the green garlic in lots of other dishes.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sail On

This morning, Kenna and I woke up to a beautiful, sunny day. She stayed on the porch for most of the day, watching the creek and basking in the sunshine.



I went out to check on her later in the morning and I noticed something strange floating down the creek:













Finally, a sure sign that spring has arrived--pieces of snow and ice are breaking up in the higher elevations and floating down the creek past our house. I had a piece of snow/ice float by during the last week of May last year, so this is probably the first of many.


Kenna was busy watching the ducks and rabbits for most of the day:

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Against the Wind

As I was leaving town to drive to Michigan yesterday morning, Mother of Ken called to tell me that strong straight line winds hit southeast Kansas that morning, causing a lot of damage. As Mother and Father of Ken were getting ready for work, the wind picked up and the power went out and then all kinds of terrible things started happening. Thankfully, Mother and Father of Ken's house and yard were not damaged and Grandmother and Uncle of Ken's house and yard were also unharmed. I think they were the only two households in the whole town that didn't experience any damage.


Father of Ken sent these pictures of what their neighborhood looks like.


Yes, that's a car under there.



One of several uprooted trees:





The house across the street from my parents, known to us as "Uncle Jack and Aunt Therese's house" even though they were not our relatives and no longer live there. There is a beautiful old oak tree in their front yard that isn't completely destroyed, but has lost several large limbs:









Another house around the corner from ours:




The house across the street from ours:





As far as we know, no one was injured in all of this. Father of Ken was out on the porch when the winds picked up because he was in the process of pulling the hanging baskets to safety. He didn't think the wind was strong enough to do all of this damage--remember, we Kansans are used to high winds sweeping across the plains. This wasn't a tornado, for those of you who are wondering, just some strong straight line winds (80 to 90 mph), which can do quite a bit of damage on their own. Mother and Father of Ken's house, which is about 130 years old or so, withstood all of this wind without any trouble, just like it did during the tornado that hit in 2000. That is a testament to good, old fashioned construction.


Mother and Father of Ken have not had electricity since this morning and have heard that it might take a few days for it to be restored. Grandmother and Uncle of Ken have electricity, thankfully, but my Grambi and Papaw and other relatives who live about an hour away are without power as well. Hopefully, power will be restored soon, because it is miserably humid and stuffy there.