Summer Treats

Miss Rocketpop!, originally uploaded by cutesypoo (Buy these on Etsy!)

I'm churning out ice cream faster than I can eat it, which is saying a lot. My newest flavors are a super-thick peanut butter brownie concoction and cherry vanilla, which is made with a reduction of real cherries. Just this morning I made a batch of mint ice cream mixed with "cool mint" Oreos.

Summer's bounty has started trickling from our garden too. We found some wild black raspberry bushes in the rocks behind it and Natalie couldn't get enough of those. She was also the lucky eater of the year's first peas. In fact, with such a measly little garden, I wonder if there's going to be much left for anyone else after she gets the first dibs on all her favorite foods.

This week, Salt & Fat wrote about pancakes and the post inspired me to immediately make my own from scratch. I've never done it before but Jim was right, it was easy, and they were the most delicious pancakes I have ever made! Natalie was slamming them down like there was no tomorrow. I threw some fresh blueberries into mine... YUM.

Back to the 50's Mitsuri

This weekend we made our annual pilgrimage to the Fairgrounds for Back to the Fifties. My father-in-law drives out every year in his '52 chevy with some lawn chairs and a trunk full of beer. We eat cheese curds and get a big pail of Sweet Martha's cookies and I would be happy to just sit out there all day watching cars and people. But Natalie took a digger on the sidewalk and bloodied up her knees, and we didn't stay long after that.
We stopped by our old house since we were in the neighborhood. It looked exactly the same. We flipped Natalie's car seat around since she is two years old, and she was so excited to be facing forward, but exhausted after the busy morning. She slept for the entire ride from St. Paul to Carver, and almost another two hours in her crib at home.
On Saturday evening we went to the Waconia marching band parade. Natalie was way into the music and she kept scooting closer to the bands; off her chair, on the curb, and finally sitting in the street. When the second band finished, she jumped up and started high-stepping down the road. If I hadn't grabbed her I think she would have just followed them for the entire parade.
She couldn't sit still for the whole thing so we went for a walk. Around the back of the school we found a great big playground with tall wooden spires. "Whee fun," yelled Natalie, which is her word for swings. On our way back, she tripped in a driveway and scraped her knees all over again. I have to admit that the Waconia band performance was pretty cool. They played a koto and biwa (I think?), drummed taiko and pulled out a big Chinese dragon for the grand finale.

This Old House

We knew that a building over one hundred years old may have some problems. There haven't been any major disasters yet but we have discovered some quirks and peculiarities in the "historic wing."

For example, the layout of switches and outlets is not always ideal. There is evidence of several pipes and wires and cables and switches that might have been functional at some point, but now they're capped or incomplete or missing or nonfunctional. The renovation left a mysterious gap between the old roof and the walls in the our wing that we'll have to investigate some day. Then there's the chandelier I installed in the dining room.

After it was all set up, we realized the fixture is connected directly to the house power, and the room's only light switch is apparently connected to... nothing. It's no big deal, though. I'll just go down to the basement and crawl into the cellar and turn the breaker on whenever we need light on the first floor. We can live with that.

Garden, Day 24

Our tiny garden continues to grow. Cucumber plants are everywhere, raising my hopes for the promise of a pickling crop this year. The carrots I planted on Day 1 are finally pushing their leafy little heads out of the ground.
Our vigorous raspberry plants are already sending up new growth from their runners. I was also excited to discover a wild raspberry bush growing from our second-tier rock wall that was already full of tiny dark berries!
But mostly what is growing are weeds and grass that we failed to properly remove from the soil. I need to lay down some mulch and stamp that stuff out. Otherwise everything looks pretty good!

Clifford The Big Red #@$%

Natalie turns two years old this week. She's undeniably a toddler now and capable of all kinds of amazing physical feats compared to one year ago. But nothing drives home her "big girl" status quite like hearing her polysyllabic babel resolve into comprehensible English.

She enjoys playing "gatchu," which is a chase game that is effective at delaying bath- and bedtime. "Findyoo?" she asks while she is looking for something and when she sees it she exclaims, "foun'joo!" When Natalie is hungry she can ask for all of her favorite foods: sheerna, chi-cheese, and ca-cas. She is great with "please," "pankoo," and "welcome." She also is very prompt at letting us know when her snacks are "all gone." She even wished my mom a "happy [birth] day" over the phone.

"Mama back shoon," Natalie cries when Jenna drives away and leaves her stranded with me. "Daddy, num-nums, NO," she says firmly when I try to get her to eat. "Lola! Funny poop," she shouts, as she sticks her finger up the dog's butt. Of course the best part is when she unintentionally curses like a sailor. "Shirt" is pronounced "shit." And her word for Clifford, the big red dog, is "Fuck'ead." That one was a big hit at storytime.

Food Party

Our open house was the fanciest shindig in all of Carver this Saturday. We filled our kitchen with food and two coolers of beverages, Jenna made three jugs of lemonade, and I churned out five flavors of ice cream! Here is what I served:
  1. Quadruple Chocolate
  2. Espresso Caramel
  3. Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam
  4. Cherry Cola
  5. Peanut Butter Bombshell

Those last three are from À La Mode, an e-book of vegan ice cream recipes that is fully worth the measely five bucks it costs from the author's website. The peanut butter in particular was a crowd favorite and disappeared quickly. Even better than homemade ice cream, though, were all the awesome people who came out to party with us.

Besides our families, some of whom helped us clean and prepare all morning, we also hosted several of my coworkers, Jenna's former boss, and my aunt and uncle and their sons and significant others who I haven't seen in a while. Plus our college friends came from ALL OVER THE WORLD (Seattle, Wisconsin and Minnesota) with their little ones. Jenna has more photos on her blog.

Memorial Day Weekend

Natalie with her grandpa
We spent Memorial Day weekend at my parents' house on Lake Vermont. It was a great actual vacation; since we were away from the house with all of its projects demanding our attention, we had no choice but to relax and have fun. We even left Natalie with her grandparents so that Jenna and I could be alone with each other for a few hours. What a novelty!
What did we do with this rare and valuable time together? Why, garage sales, of course! It's great when your house needs everything. You can usually find useful stuff. We scored on some light fixtures (2 for $2), a doorknob (5o cents) and a large wall mirror (free). I picked up a brand-new copy of Stratego for $2, some books for ten cents each, and the TMNT Trilogy box set.
We had an adventure for the weekend when we took the boat out and the motor immediately died; luckily we were able to drift to a friendly neighbor's dock, and they took us for a ride on their pontoon boat. Back on dry land, we walked down the road to investigate a hand-painted "stop for eggs" sign. We discovered a farm with a flock of Barred Rocks, which is exactly the breed that I want to raise at home! Unfortunately they don't sell birds, but we still got a dozen eggs and Natalie had a great time watching the hens and their two Boston Terriers.
It was a great weekend. We played lots of board games, ate good food, and had a couple of beers. Weather was great most of the time. The air was swarming with friendly dragonflies. I took Natalie to see the cows on the farm across the street; she was excited until they started to rush the fence. I have many great memories of visiting my grandparents at this house and I hope that she does too.

Garden, Day 10

The differences between the garden today and the day I planted it may not be immediately obvious, but a lot has changed! The little propeller heads of the cucumber seeds I planted are beginning to sprout all over, and so are the remainders of weeds that we didn't clear out completely. I was able to harvest a couple of perfect strawberries before something else got at them.

We put in some more plants too. A few days ago I finally planted our raspberries from the old house. We went shopping at local garden center The Mustard Seed and added peas, corn, and more tomato seedlings. This tiny plot is pretty full now. If we want to plant anything else, we'll need to clear a few more weeds first!

Personal Histories

photograph of Carver, date unknown

We got a surprise visit this week from one of our home's former occupants. A pickup truck pulled into our driveway while Jenna was making dinner and out stepped a barrel-chested man with tattoos up and down his arms. He introduced himself as Larry Berger, told us that he used to live here with his parents, and would we mind if he looked around a bit? Sure, I said, come on in!

So he came in with his daughter and his friend. They walked through the house and he told us stories. "Here's where we had an open stove." "These stairs are just as steep as I remember!" "This was my bedroom, that one was my sister's." "Bathroom looks the same... except the sink was over here, and there was no laundry."

Outside we learned more about what the property used to include. "It was ten acres when we lived here," Larry said. "The pasture was down where that apartment building is now, and the horse barn was up there. My dad's horse was buried right in that spot. That deck wasn't here. And that's the old chicken coop. I wanted to build an apartment in there, but my mother said it was too dirty, I would get sick."

He shared information about his life without being prompted. He left home in the 70's to join the Army. He came back afterwards but didn't get along well with his father, so he left again. And he told us a story from his childhood about keeping alligators in a washtub in the basement, which his mom discovered while she was doing laundry.

We love this home for its history so I am eager to learn everything I can about the land, the buildings, and former occupants. The most interesting tidbit was when he mentioned that they moved in during the early 1960's and the house was already one hundred years old. That would mean the house was not built in 1900--as the MLS listing indicated--but rather c. 1860! (It's possible; Carver was a bustling frontier town by 1855.) Clearly, it's time for some detective work.