Sunday, March 31, 2019

March Roundup

What?! March Roundup already? Where did March even go? Whew! Between an after school tutoring gig for me, spring projects for Jeremy, and plenty of school and non-school events for the boys, I can't believe we all still have our sanity. Wait, do I have my sanity? Checking on that.

You know how they say March "Comes in like a lion, goes out like a lamb?" Well it for sure came in like a lion, winter weather, rain, and misery, just like it's supposed to do. And then about this time last week, I thought for sure we would be set to go out like a lamb, given a week of moderate temperatures and sunshine. But do you know what it did yesterday? It snowed! And not just flurries. It started with little tiny icy pellets, followed by giant snowflakes, which melted as soon as they hit the warm ground. But still. Snow! Um, no. Watching the snow hit my lonely blooming tulip in the front garden brought on far more emotions than weather should bring. To anyone. Moving on to April and praying for weather in the 60's - and no more snow on my tulip.

So let's see... what have we done this month?

Outdoors. and lots of it. It's funny how in the fall when it dips below 50 degrees, you bundle up, stand close to fires, and cozy up indoors. But after a harsh winter with tons of snow, and frigid rain that never stops, when it hits 50 degrees, it's shorts and t-shirt weather. Our first day out without jackets was so good for my soul. We walked to the end of our culdesac where our city piles gravel and rocks from who knows where for who know what. It's a 7 and 9 year old's dream for a playground. They ride their bikes down the rock hills, run down them, and much to my dismay, slide down them on their rear ends, because you know, they don't care if they rip their jeans sliding down a bunch of rocks. Then they jump from mound to mound, calling it parkour, which most definitely is not.

The full moon coincided with Spring Equinox this month. It also happened to be a super moon. The next morning, we tried to get a clever picture of Eli "holding" the moon. After a dozen shots, with Lex directing him to move his hand "half an itch to the right," this is the best we managed. At least it's close to his hand, casually suspended on the tip of his thumb. Maybe next month. 

Lex had a piece of his art chosen for his school's art show at a local bank. So we we went and checked it out. His picture is the one on the top left. 

We made our first trip of the season to the park on a beautiful spring day. I was happy to see that the boys have not outgrown the play equipment, the monkey bars, or the sandbox. They had a blast in the fresh air, and so did I! 

We went on a couple of hikes this month. The first was our first outing with the Boy Scouts at our favorite spot, Three Creeks. I thought we had covered every inch of these trails with as many times as we've been there, but on this trek, we went down a new path and found an incredible cave. We hiked more than 3 miles and it felt amazing! I took tons of pictures, but won't post them since they all have other kids in them. Here's one lonely picture of the creek. It wasn't as high as it was last November when we were here last.

I also took the boys out for a day hike one day during Spring Break. I wrote about it here. We hiked 2 different trails at Rock Bridge State Park, the Grassland and Sinkhole trails. It was the hottest day of the year, and perfect for being outside. Especially since 3 days later, it snowed. That's spring for you. 

Axe Throwing
There's a new place close to us where you can get your practice throwing axes, knives, and throwing stars. We tested it out on a Saturday afternoon with a group of friends. It took a while to get the "swing" of it, but eventually, I hit the target! It was so satisfying swinging that axe over my head and letting it fly. Check out how close I was to the Bulls eye. I did that! If you're looking for something adventurous to do, you can rent lanes by the hour at the Axe House.  

This was one of those months where I just didn't cook a lot of new things. We were more in survival mode, trying to get from one day to the next. This is not an efficient way to plan menus, since I was at the grocery store about 4 times a week making sure we had what we needed. I'm hoping to do better in April. One grocery store trip per week. We'll see. 

A few things I did manage to not only cook, but also photograph: 

St. Patrick's Day. Every year, I search for new Irish recipes, and always find this soda bread. I finally decided to make it this year to go with our Corned Beef and Cabbage. I had planned on blogging the recipe, but that didn't happen either. It isn't anything fancy, but let's face it, anytime you can slather homemade bread with butter and eat it with a hearty stew, it's pretty comforting. The benefit is that it's really easy to make. You can find the recipe I used here. 

We loved this Asparagus Greek Salad. Jeremy and I ate it for a meal. Nothing else. Just this salad. 

I will make these lemon cookies again and again. They are quite possible my favorite cookie ever. 

We also grilled for the first time of the season. I'm seriously looking forward to adding grilled food to our menu rotation. Here's to a better food month in April with many more new recipes. 

And now, for some of our Sunday selfies this month. 

 2019 is 1/4 of the way over. Here's to a new month of adventures in spring weather!

Friday, March 29, 2019

Spring Break, Spring Hike

The boys and I went on a hike a couple of days ago. We're on spring break, and have enjoyed every minute of being home. We have done yard work, spring cleaning, spring cooking, spring clothes shopping, gardening, reading, tv watching, and sleeping in. But that day was the warmest day of the year so far, and there was no chance that we were staying inside. Off on a hike we went.

We did 2 trails on the Rock Bridge State Park trail system. We started with the Grassland trails, and then hit the Sinkhole trail on the other side of the road. My goal is to eventually walk every mile of this trail system. We're getting closer!

The last time we went to the Grassland Trails, the boys were so little. I wrote all about it on the blog here, way back in 2014. That hike was also in spring, which in my opinion, is the best time to do the Grassland Trail. Unfortunately, there wasn't much wildlife out yet. I guess the animal kingdom is taking its time waking from winter.

 The boys broke from the car in a full run. Apparently, we needed to burn some energy.

There are sinkholes all over this area.

And this is what happens when you burn all your energy in the first 100 yards.

But not for long. These boys were ready to explore.

 So happy to be outside in this 70 degree weather!

Run like the wind, boys. It's supposed to storm for the next two days.

But look, they did stop and let me take some pictures. Ages 7 and 9. Almost every year, I say to everyone, this is my favorite age yet. When they were 3 and 5, it was my favorite age. Same with 4 and 6, 5 and 7, 6 and 8. But 7 and 9. For sure, my favorite ages yet. They are old enough to hold their side of a conversation, yet young enough to still cuddle up at the end of the day to read bedtime stories.

We spent a while at the grassland trail, but didn't do the whole loop. When we were done, we went across the road to another trail head at Rock Bridge State Park. This one is called the Sinkhole Trail, aptly named for all the huge sinkholes.

Unlike the grassland trail, it's wooded.

The trail is beautifully maintained and blazed in green (there's a white connector that shortens it a bit if you don't want to do the whole loop).

Immediately, we passed this little pond, probably a sinkhole - turned watering hole (but I don't really know for sure). It is not unusual for us to stop and throw rocks in any body of water, but this time, the boys really just wanted to stop and stay here for the longest time. Throwing some rocks, using sticks to stir up the much on the edge of the pond, listening to the frogs, all things to waste the day away in the middle of spring break.

I love how Google Photos restyled this photo (below).

Lex was looking for any sign of fish.

 We didn't see fish, but we did spot 5 turtles basking in the sun in the middle of the pond. Can you see them? They didn't move an inch the entire time we were there.

Meanwhile, we were on the lookout for any sign of spring. We didn't see one single wild flower on the forest floor, which seemed surprising, but we did see some leaves sprouting. Yay for green!

On we meandered, only passing a couple of people the entire time we were out.

It won't look like this for long. I bet the next time we hike, there will be so much more green in the pictures!

We went off the beaten path to sit on a huge boulder with a view. We hung out here for a little while too. 

And took some more pictures.

 Until someone was tired of taking pictures.

 But just one more.

And then, after 2 hours, we followed the path back to our car.

So glad we got our nature fix before the rain came!

Happy Spring Hiking!

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Lemon Cookies with Lemon Glaze

We are officially on spring break. We have had a whirlwind of activities since the last time I wrote here. Hiking, Boy Scouts, art shows, spring concerts, piano competitions, and then finally, the reprieve that comes with spring break. It came on so quickly that it took a full weekend before it really sunk in that spring break was here. For the first time in years, we aren't traveling. It's a much needed staycation for us. Spring cleaning the house, yard work, reading, and trying new recipes. Oh yes, and catching up with blog writing.

So let's play a game of "Would you Rather?"

Would you rather have a cookie that's crisp or a cookie that's chewy?

Would you rather have a chocolate chip cookie or fresh lemon cookie?

Would you rather have thick sugar icing or a light sugary glaze?

This cookie is my answer to all of those questions. A chewy lemon cookie with a perfect crispy edge, lightly coated with a sugary, lemon glaze. Mmmmmm. This, in fact, is not a new recipe for us. I've made it twice before. Each time, I've made more than the time before, but it still wasn't enough. We devoured all of them by the end of the day. They are so, so, so yummy. Original Recipe found here. 

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temp
Juice of one lemon 
Zest of one lemon
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 flour

Powdered sugar
Lemon juice

To get started: Preheat oven to 350 degrees, F. 

Step Four: Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients and mix until combined. Sorry, no picture for this one. 

Step Five: Drop by teaspoons onto baking sheet, and bake 10-12 minutes. (Mine all took 12 minutes, even though they were on the smaller side.)

Step Six: While cookies are baking, whip up your glaze. There is no perfect formula for this. Start with about 1/4 cup of powdered sugar and add lemon juice until it reaches your desired consistency. The original recipe showed a thicker glaze, but I like mine really liquidy. When it dries, it adds the perfect extra crunch to the top of the cookie. 

Place cookies on cooling rack, and then drizzle the glaze over top.

And ta-da! Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Asparagus Greek Chopped Salad

Spring! Just when I think it's right around the corner, we get 3 inches of snow, and then windchill temperatures below zero, and then, just... ugh. It's not spring yet.


I came down the stairs this morning at my normal time, just before 6 am, and low and behold, it was light outside. The sun is back! Spring! And then when I walked outside just an hour later, there were 2 birds perched just outside the house. AND, the trees were budding. Somehow, someway, spring found us. Even in the negative temperatures. Even in the snow.

Once March hits, I'm on the lookout for spring recipes. I don't care if it's officially spring or not. We are eating spring food. I found this recipe a few weeks ago (click here for original recipe), and could not wait to try it. We love asparagus and we love Greek salads. Of course we would love them both tossed together. This salad is way too easy, and while I'm sure it is meant as a refreshing side dish to a much meatier main course, Jeremy and I devoured the whole thing for supper. I mean like 3 bowls each of these refreshing veggies. Yum. No main dish needed.

Here's what you need.

2 lbs. asparagus, rinse, and trimmed (woody part snapped off)
1 yellow pepper, cut into bite sized pieces
1 cucumber, sliced
1/2 red onion, diced (I used slightly less than this because I don't like things to onion-y)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon lemon juice (more or less)
1 cup Kalamata olives (less if you want)
Feta cheese (optional)
Sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper

Step One: Prepare the asparagus (snap woody ends off). Drizzle with 1-2 Tablespoons of olive oil and then bake at 425 degrees, F. for 12-15 minutes. 

While the asparagus cooks away, chop up your other ingredients: cucumber, tomato, pepper, red onions, and olives (I just threw the olives in whole).

When the asparagus comes out, let it cool, then chop that into about 1 inch pieces.

Mix it all together. 

I did not follow the original recipe for the dressing (I left out the garlic). I just drizzled olive oil and lemon juice over the top and then seasoned with salt and pepper. It is the easiest, simplest, tastiest way to dress up some fresh vegetables.

Top with feta cheese (if you wish).

And that's a wrap!

Tis the season for asparagus recipes. Here are a couple I've posted before.

Chicken and Asparagus Chowder
Roasted Asparagus with Garlic