Friday, July 3, 2020

Looking Back at June

Happy July!  It's the best month of the year!  And it really feels like summer outside!  My only probably with our current string of 93° days is that it makes running very hard for me since my options are 5am (still dark) or when Matt gets home and the heat index is 100° (give or take a couple degrees).  Neither are great (although that hasn't stopped me from running in 100° before).  But, otherwise, I like that summer is feeling, literally feeling, like summer, since so much of the rest of this summer is...crazy. 

We haven't been to the zoo yet, we haven't been in a library building for 3.5 months.  The only public places the boys have been is church.  We're still limiting our in-store shopping although we are back to going to the grocery every week instead of the every other week we did for over 2 months (it's really hard to get milk that stays good for 2 weeks and freezing and then thawing it just doesn't taste the same).  BUT we're still going to the lake sometimes and going to Mass and I make a lot of ice cream and we eat a lot of ice cream and we're doing a lot of house projects.  Some of this feels like regular summer and some doesn't!  I haven't made a summer fun list like I have in past years because I really don't know what we'll do extra this year.  Most of the things I put on there every year have been canceled for this summer so...probably means I need to think a little harder about projects and fun things we can do!

Looking back:
1 year ago: {100} Picture Books for the Summer
2 years ago: Traveling with a Two Month Old (I miss traveling but not with a 2 month old)

3 years ago: {100} Picture Books to Read this Summer
4 years ago: Hawaii: Maui (I do miss this traveling)
5 years ago: Homemade Eye Make-Up Remover (I still use this!)
6 years ago: Chocolate Chip Banana Bread (we still make this occasionally!)

7 years ago: Food DIY - Taco Seasoning (we still use this all the time)
8 years ago: Doolin to Dingle

1) The very underappreciated method of stripping paint from wood called "having a baby gate abused by children".  But we did take down one of our two baby gates!  That's exciting!
2) Last December I took ornaments off the tree and then Sam threw this R2-D2 ornament back at the tree.  We couldn't find it again.  We took the (long dead) tree to the lake to burn at the beginning of the summer and couldn't find it before we set it on fire.  We go back to the lake 2 weeks after that trip, after the Christmas tree had been burned and another fire set on top of it, and sitting on top of the (long extinguished ashes) was R2-D2.  I was pretty excited he turned up after all!  Luke cleaned him up and he'll be back on our tree in November!
3) A beautiful lake sunset!
4) I eat one of these scones every Friday, even when we are at the lake.
5) A GORGEOUS lake sunset from the pontoon!
6) I LOVE that my boys LOVE books. 
7) Eating in the tiny bit of shade in our house around lunchtime.  I also love all the blue in this picture, that's what happens when I fill my life with blue!
8) A beautiful day at my sister's pond!
9) It might be summer but I still require my slippers and tea some morning!
10) This ice cream, it is amazing.
11) The flowerbox in the tree house.  We're doing much better about watering these this year!
12) Sam watching the lake sunset with me!
13) Not a bad way to spend a Monday! (When we were supposed to be on vacation, before COVID).
14) Backyard vacation week fun!  The boys playing in the pool, I was supervising with a book, Matt was working on the house.
15) Finally painting our picnic table with paint we bought over a year ago!  Yes, I needed more blue in my life!
16) Gorgeous daisies at church!

Books finished: 15!
Miles ran:
34 miles, I had to take a week off to tweak (increase) my RA meds so I didn't get as many miles in as I would have liked. This heat also isn't very conducive to running when Matt gets home.
Currently watching:
I'm watching Take Two on the occasional morning I am working on a personal project and not working working in the morning before the boys are awake.  Matt & I have started rewatching summer action movies on weekends (as in we will watch one over Friday/Saturday night because we don't usually want to stay up late enough to watch a whole movie in one night.). Our last two were Transformers and Jurassic World.  It's been a lot of fun.
Most read post this month:
Far and away, Stripping: Laundry Style.  It's gone a bit viral, getting almost more views in the past month alone than any other post on my blog has gotten ever.  June 2020 I also got the most views of any other single month .  The Amazon affiliate links in that post have also been good to me! (Meaning...I've made enough to buy a new hardcover book with my earnings from the past 3 months...not like making real crazy money).  It's funny and exciting to see those numbers.
Luke's current favorite song:
He really likes Can't Stop the Feeling.

By the time I write the next one of these we should know something of what school will look like in the fall!  That will be nice to know but also sad that, potentially, school starts up in just ~6 weeks already!  How did that happen????

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

ICOTW: Strawberry Buttermilk Ice Cream

It's July which means it's time for weekly ice cream posts again!  There was a time when I did these ice cream posts every week.  This is no longer that time.  I still make A LOT of ice cream in the summer (I think we have 6 tubs of homemade ice cream in our freezer, as well as two kinds of homemade popsicles) but I've found so many favorites in this project that I mix in a heavy dose of those in with trying new ones.  Which means I just intend of these to run throughout July but we'll see how ambitious I get in trying new recipes!  I only intended to make drink recipes through June but then kept making new those will continue every other week too (and I've already written some of those into August...I make A LOT of drinks at the start of summer and then just repeat favorites). 

I knew I was going to make a new strawberry ice cream because that's Matt's favorite and I bought A LOT of strawberries when they were in season and on sale.  I made two batches of this one because it's super easy but came across this featured recipe in a cookbook and threw it in as well.  The main appeal of it was the use of buttermilk since I now know someone with a cow (my sister).  I've met the cow that produced this buttermilk, which I'm pretty excited about (everything else came from Aldi).  If only I had picked the strawberries as well!  Alas, that is not something I made time for in June.  We'll have to settle for pretty local buttermilk.

This is certainly more involved than the strawberry ice cream post I linked above (no stove time on that one!) but the taste is outstanding.  The buttermilk lends a certain tang to it as well as a more complex flavor that comes with a more complex recipe.  It also has 4 different dairy products in it which is...quite a few.  BUT, you are rewarded for your work with a delicious ice cream.  Or, in the case of my family, they are rewarded for my work.  I am more than happy to share.

One year ago: Coconut Peach Popsicles

Two years ago: Strawberry Coconut Milk Popsicles
Three years ago: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream
Four years ago: Raspberry Crisp Ice Cream (one of my VERY favorite find of all the ones I've made)

Five years ago: Clean Out the Freezer Popsicles

Roasted Strawberry & Buttermilk Ice Cream
yield: about 1 quart
Roasted Strawberries
-1 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced about ½ inch thick
-1/3 cup sugar
-3 TB lemon juice

Ice Cream Base

-2½ ounces cream cheese, softened
-1/8 tsp sea salt

-2 cups whole milk
-2 TB + 2 tsp cornstarch
-1 2/3 cups heavy cream
-¾ cup sugar
-2 TB + 2 tsp light corn syrup
-1/3 cup buttermilk

1) Set out the cream cheese to soften in a medium size bowl.  Whisk in the salt once the cream cheese is soft.

2) For the strawberries, preheat the oven to 375°.  Combine the sliced strawberries with the sugar in an 8 inch glass baking dish and spread evenly.  Roast for 8 minutes or just until soft, let cool.  Process in a food processor or blender with the lemon juice.  Measure 2/3 of this mixture for the ice cream and refrigerate the rest to be used as an ice cream topping. (You need to fill the bottom of the dish to prevent burning, which is why you have to over make this.)

3) Measure out the 2 cups of whole milk in a glass measuring cup and then pour about 2 TB into a separate small container.  Add the cornstarch to this small container and whisk to make a slurry.  Pour the remaining milk from the measuring cup into a medium saucepan.  Add the heavy cream, sugar, and corn syrup to the sauce pan as well.

4) Bring the saucepan mixture to a boil over medium-high heat and let boil for 4 minutes.  Remove from heat and slowly whisk in the cornstarch-milk slurry.  Put back over medium-high heat and return to a boil and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute.  Remove from heat.

5) Slowly add the hot stove mixture to the bowl with the cream cheese and salt, whisking constantly.  Add the measured 2/3 cup of strawberry puree and the buttermilk, blending well.  Refridgerate until cool or overnight.

6) Churn according to your machine's instructions and then pack into a freezer-safe container, placing a piece of parchment paper on top.  Freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.

Source: Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer (a FANTASTIC ice cream cookbook, if you are in the market for one of those!)
In the summer I aim to make a different homemade ice cream (or other frozen treat) each week and report back here, good or bad!  I call it "Ice Cream of the Week".  You can follow the "ICOTW" tag to see them all chronologically or go to my "Recipes" page and scroll down to the "Ice Cream/Frozen Things" section for my favorites! 

Monday, June 29, 2020

Mixed Drink Monday: Honey Lemon Margarita


If you scroll down a bit to look at the "looking back" posts, of the drinks I posted near this date over the last SIX (!!) years I've been doing this...if you pay any attention to what I've been posting this'll notice I have a thing for margaritas in the summer.  I am not apologizing for that.  They are delicious.

BUT, many dozens of margarita recipes in, this is the very first one that hasn't used limes.  AT ALL.  In any form.  Which I even found a little alarming when making it!  I don't know what to do with a margarita without limes!  But the lemons were a nice change from all the lime-based margaritas I've made and this was still delicious.  And lemons are that's far of a stretch from limes, not the same but similar.  Lemons still feel appropriately summer-y.

You may also notice that this is a small drink.  I made it according to the recipe and this is what turned out.  I didn't try to expand this because I made a different margarita before this one, but that will post later, that was SUPER strong and I was NOT inclined to make that mistake again.  So I left this as is.  And it still made for a perfectly sized drink while we did a fire in the firepit with the boys (and this was not such a strong drink that we were compromised in having the boys around a (small) fire!).

The taste was great, they were easy to make, and they gave me an excuse to buy lemons!  It all worked out well!

One year ago: Red, White, and Blue Margarita
Two years ago:
Blackberry Crush
Three years ago: Coconut Pineapple Margarita

Four years ago: Triple Berry Margarita
Five years ago: Peach Smoothies
Six years ago: Raspberry Limeade & Frozen Coconut Lemonade

Honey Lemon Margaritas
yield: 1 drink
-1½ ounces (3 TB) tequila
-1 ounce (2 TB) triple sec
-½ ounce (1 TB) honey
-½ ounce (1 TB) lemon juice
-lemon slices for rim (optional)
-rimming salt (optional)

Rim your glass with lemon slice and then dip in salt.  Set aside.  Mix the tequila, triple sec, honey, and lemon juice in a shaker with ice or in your glass.  Shake/stir until honey is disolved.  Pour into prepared glass if used a shaker.  Enjoy!

Source: Modified from Hello Fresh
In the summer I aim to make a new drink every week and share them all here, good or bad!  See them all in chronological order by following the "Mixed Drink Monday" tag here or check out my favorites by scrolling down to "Mixed Drink Monday" on my recipes page

Friday, June 26, 2020

Things Luke & Sam Like - 7¼ & 2¼

On Instagram, most Thursdays I post about a picture book that I've read and enjoyed with the boys.  I took a break for awhile with COVID, libraries were closed and we were really struggling to find books to read by the time our library opened back up for curbside pick-up.  I am back to posting picture books I've really liked over there but here are the ones my boys have really liked lately.  Sometimes there is overlap.  Sometimes...there is not.

{5} Books Luke Likes (7)
1) The Box Turtle by Vanessa Roeder
This is one I've recently featured on Instagram but it's also one that Luke has pulled out from our library stack many times when we are pulling picture books to read.  We've read a lot of turtle books lately, maybe they are having a moment??  This one is about a Turtle named Terrance who was born without a shell and the box his parents give him as a substitute shell draws teasing from classmates.  He sets off to find what he deems to be an acceptable replacement shell, with his trusty friends.  It was cute and had a nice lesson about self-acceptance.

2) The Berenstain Bears' Knight to Remember by Stan and Jan Berenstain
We've seemingly set out to become Berenstain Bear completist recently (we've read 250+ and that's still not all of them!) and this was a favorite of Luke's when, I think, we read it digitally through one of the library apps.  The Bear Country society stretches the imagination at times but we already have talking bears, why not add a society that randomly grows and shrinks?  Luke found this one fun with a knight that seemingly comes to life. 

3) McBroom Tells a Lie by Sid Fleischman, illustrated by Walter Lorraine
My Mom read my sisters and I some of the McBroom books when we were kids and those are the exact copies I recently read my kids.  Luke really loved these, about a farmer, his 11 kids, and their magical farm.  I hate admitting that my attention span has diminished but these were longer than picture books we typically read now however Luke stayed really engaged with them.  The stories are all a little magical and far-fetched and having dirt that can grow a full crop in an hour feels like a lot of work to me.

4) Berenstain Bears: The Haunted Lighthouse by Stan & Jan Berenstain
There are quite a few Berenstain Bear books set over their vacation on Gull Island (have I read too many when I didn't even need to look up the name of their fictional vacation island?) and this one is set when they didn't think to reserve a cottage ahead of time and end up staying in an abandoned lighthouse that seems to be haunted.  This was a short chapter book that I read on my phone to Luke.  He LOVED it and begged for a chapter every time we read but also wanted there to be more pictures.  I don't think he would have found a real haunted lighthouse as interesting!

5) Once Upon a Goat by Dan Richards, illustrated by Eric Barclay
Maybe it's that some of Luke's cousins have goats, so the idea of one magically appearing on the doorstep sounds like an adventure.  Whatever it is, a King and Queen getting a goat instead of the kid they were expecting from their fairy godmother, well, it leads to some problems.  I've very glad neither of our children turned out to be goats.

{5} Books Sam Likes (2¼)
1) Don't Touch This Book by Bill Cotter
Sam really likes the first "Larry" book, Don't Push the Button, and now he's taken to pulling out the two follow-ups frequently too.  This one included more motions than just pressing a button and he is starting to have them all memorized, just like Luke did at one point too!  

2) I Love You Just Like This by Lillian Jaine
This book quarantined with us and it's one of the very few that we still haven't returned from that time.  We read it A LOT but Sam also really likes it and it has a cute message.  At some point soon our renewals will run out and then it'll go back but it stands a nice memory from especially those early quarantine days.

3) Curious George and the Bunny by H.A. Rey
This is one of Sam's absolute favorite books, maybe because, due to it's size, it sits on the top of a stack of books?  It gets grabbed frequently.  I had it memorized back when I was regularly reading to Luke and now I have it memorized again!  Sam really enjoys finding the bunny and pointing out the bird and/or bug on most pages.

4) The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton
Sam has been more into the Sandra Boynton books than Luke ever was and this might be his second favorite after Moo, Baa, La La La!I do wonder why the monsters "take a bath in one big tub" before they "all go out to exercise", those seem like they should be reversed, in my opinion but it does have a nice rhythm to it!

5) The Little School Bus by Margery Cuyler
We quarantined with The Little Ice Cream Truck and the other 3 books in this set were among the first books I put on hold, once we could again.  Sam LOVES school buses, seeing them, pointing them out, both in person and in books.  I don't think I'll be returning this one for awhile either!

Those are some books we've been reading (and rereading and rereading) lately!

Monday, June 22, 2020

Mixed Drink Monday: Pineapple Sunset Cocktail

I love a good pineapple drink in the summer and so this was a fantastic and delightful drink to try towards the beginning.  It was really easy to mix up, only took a few ingredients, and tasted great!  Basically everything I am looking for in a drink.  I also like how easy it would be to make a non-alcholic version of this - just leave out the vodka and maybe add a little more juice and/or sparkling water and voila!  Luke is also so excited when I make him a kid-friendly version of my "special drinks" and this one makes it easy.  Also, it's just pretty with the gradient from the grenadine, even if it is just adding sugar.

It may appear from these pictures that we are always at the lake.  That is not the case.  I just usually have a little more free time up there, or life is a little less pressing at least, so I will make multiple drinks when we are up there (this particular weekend it was 3, actually all made the same day).  For some reason, taking 30 minutes to mix up drinks and photograph them at 9:30 in the morning just seems more doable there than at home.  Using my normal shower time for drink making?  Maybe.  Not a bad exchange, depending how hot it is!

As previously established, I always have pineapple juice on hand in the summer and I've been working through the same bottle of vodka for 9 years (it was a big bottle, also we don't drink much vodka.  I've gone through MUCH more tequila and triple sec in that time.  Not A LOT, but more one bottle).  So, yay for easy drinks and yay for summer!

Three years ago: Raspberry Margarita
Four years ago: Pineapple Cooler
Five years ago: Raspberry Oatmeal Smoothies

(Three of the previous six summers I did this, I skipped posting a drink recipe for this week, I have no idea why and find it strange that it happened 3 different years!)

Pineapple Sunset Cocktail
yield: one drink
-2 cups pineapple juice
-1½ ounces (3 TB) vodka
-generous splash of grenadine
-splash of sparkling water

Add ice to a glass.  Top with pineapple juice and vodka, stirring to combine.  Add grenadine and sparkling water to the top and enjoy!

Source: modified from Chef Savvy 
In the summer I aim to make a new drink every week and share them all here, good or bad!  See them all in chronological order by following the "Mixed Drink Monday" tag here or check out my favorites by scrolling down to "Mixed Drink Monday" on my recipes page