Monday, July 29, 2013

Working in the yard.

Since Grace is away this week (she's spending time with Meme and Pop and attending an art camp) I decided that this would be a good time to accomplish some much needed yard work. I've been highly motivated to tackle our backyard since we arrived home from our vacation - the landscaping at the inn we stayed at was beautiful.
So, this morning I headed outside armed with my gloves, trimmers and yard bags at sunrise, ready for a day of work. For some reason, I gauge my productivity on the number of bags that I fill and not by the amount of time that I spend working. I ended up being outside for nine hours (some of that time was spent sitting under the shade of the oaks to cool off) and filled six bags to brim.
a partial view of our butterfly garden
As always, I expected to accomplish more than I actually did, but six bags isn't to shabby. Up next is prepping the raised garden beds for fall planting. Stay tuned.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Harvesting our peanuts.

As we thumbed through the seed catalogs in February, we came across peanuts and wondered if they would grow in southern Florida. Not knowing how successful they would be, I ordered a packet and thought we'd give them a try. To our amazement, they grew. And not only that, they were the most productive plants that we attempted to grow this spring.
 After doing a bit of research, I decided it was probably best to harvest them, despite the leaves not being fully yellowed yet. Apparently it's best to unearth them after a dry spell and since we had gone nearly a week without rain, out they came.

Grace was eager to help (her desire to garden is hit or miss these days) with pulling up the plants and plucking the swelling pods from their roots. We ended up with nearly half of a dishpan full, not too bad for a four by four foot raised garden bed. After giving them a quick rinse, we placed the peanut pods out on our kitchen counter to dry. Once dry, fresh roasted peanuts here we come!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Art in the park.

One of Grace's friends from school asked if we'd like to join them for a morning of "Art in the Park". Without hesitation, we agreed to join them and couldn't have been happier that we did. The park (which the name slips me at the moment) was in Osprey and was right along the bay. You would have never known that it was July due to beautiful breeze that came off the water and all of the shade provided the sprawling oaks.

After a nature walk, where the children learned about the many native plants on the property and collected various leaves, they created their art. They used a gelatin relief printing technique, along with their leaves, to create a design on a tote bag. As you can see from the above photo, Grace arranged her leaves to create an ocean scene.
So there you have it - art in the park!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Off to the beach.

Over the weekend we headed to Cocoa Beach. We decided that even though we took our "big" vacation over Grace's spring break, we still needed a "little" getaway this summer. So, off to the beach it was.  
relaxing in the hammock

the view from our deck
during our visit to Kennedy Space Center
I adored the landscaping at the inn

having fun in the waves
during our walk at sunrise

I do believe we may have found a new favorite weekend getaway!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Pizza Muffins.

One afternoon, towards the end of the school year, Grace hopped excitedly into the car exclaiming, "I have a new recipe for us try - it's for little pizzas!". Apparently she had come across it while on the computer completing a "Success Maker" reading activity. Being that pizza is at the top of her list of favorite foods, she jotted the recipe down on a piece of scratch paper.
I always ask her and Dean what they would like me make for dinners during the week and more often than not they have nothing to suggest. I think the fact that Grace now had a dinner to recommend, along with it being something "new", made her quite pleased with herself. Needless to say, the "pizza muffins" were added to the weekly menu and have been on regular rotation ever since. And I must add that every time we eat them she reminds us that they were made by using "her recipe".

Oh, for the love of pizza!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Summer swimming.

Our swimming has been curtailed over the past week or so, well make that the entire month of June (and now July), due to frequent rain storms. I've never seen the pond behind our house quite so full, which makes Dean happy since there's less grass to mow now that the water level has risen substantially. However, all that rain has put a serious damper on our pool time.
Grace managed about forty minutes of swim time yesterday, then the ominous dark clouds rolled in, hampering her fun yet again. We'll be keeping our fingers crossed that the rain will stay away, perhaps just for the day, so Grace can get her swimming "fix". Wish us luck! 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Book inspired project - Drawing birds.

Now that camp is over we find ourselves with a bit more time to create. And what a better way to come up with ideas than to be inspired by books. Grace rarely selects picture books from the library anymore, as chapter books are her "thing" now. Every once and awhile though, the cover illustration on a picture book will spark her interest, so into the bag it goes.

 We have several of these such books in our possession now and Grace has been inspired to create projects based the their content. First on her list was, "The Boy Who Drew Birds", written by Jacqueline Davies and illustrated by Melissa Sweet. The book is based on the true story of John James Audubon and his love of birds.
After reading the book together, we busied ourselves drawing and painting our own favorite birds. Grace opted for a Blue Jay due to her current favorite color being blue and I, a Cardinal due to my love of their distinctive chirp while dining at our feeder. We first drew our birds using a drawing pencil, then outlined our pencil marks with a Pigma pen and finally gave them color by using watercolors. 

Reading and creating birds together, was a perfect way to spend a rainy day!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Sailor Circus camp.

Grace has spent the past two weeks under the big top at the Sailor Circus summer camp. This was her second year participating and she loved every minute of it. At the beginning of the session each child selects (choosing their favorites, numbering them 1-3) which skill they would like to focus on and perform at the show, which is held in the evening on the final day of camp. Grace received her second choice, the double trapeze or in circus lingo known as the "duo trap". She and her partner, Maverick (he was the anchor and Grace was the performer of the skills so to speak), had a great time performing together.
My photographs of the evening are of poor quality to say the least, but here are two decent ones. 
Grace, pre-performance

The apparatus on which she performed 
It was an action packed two weeks for certain. Grace is already looking forward to attending the newly forming "Circus Arts" classes and is counting down the months until she can officially join the amazing Sailor Circus!
(To find out more about this wonderful program, visit

Friday, June 21, 2013


On this first official day of summer we celebrated with a quick stop at Detwiler's Market. When we arrived it was quite apparent what season it was, as nearly everyone exiting the market had a large watermelon slung on their hip. However, we weren't there for watermelon - we wanted ice cream.
You see, Grace has been at camp all week, Sailor Circus camp to be exact, and has handled the lack of air conditioning like a trooper (yes, you're reading that correctly.... no air conditioning.... in Florida.... in the summer). When I picked her up this afternoon, dripping with sweat, I decided a cup of ice cream was in order. Without hesitation she agreed.
So ice cream it was on the first day of summer!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

MQG blocks.

I recently joined the newly formed Sarasota chapter of the Modern Quilt Guilt. Every once and awhile I would check the MQG website to see if a chapter popped up in our area, and one day much to my surprise there was one. And better yet, the group meets at our local library which is just a few short miles from our house.
The chapter is making a group quilt in which each member contributes a block or two. The fabric had to be a solid (or read as a solid) and in Florida-themed colors. Other than the finished block size and fabric requirements, the sky was the limit. After a bit of contemplating, I opted to make a circular block along with a zigzag, two techniques I have wanted to try. After I took the photograph, I quilted them using a quilt-as-you-go technique.
Now they're ready to become part of the group quilt!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Reading and tigers.

Reading aloud has come down to a snail pace around these parts. Grace has found great interest in graphic novels these days, which shouldn't come to a surprise to me due to Dean's long-time interest in reading them. So suffice it to say that Tintin, Geronimo and many other casts of characters have been occupying a good amount of her summer days.
Despite our slow pace, we managed to finish our second read-aloud book of the summer, "The Tiger Rising", by Kate DiCamillo. It was well written and I think Grace enjoyed it so much due to her current love of tigers (despite the sad ending related to the tiger's fate).
(As a side note, the drawing in the photograph above is unrelated to the book with exception that it's of a tiger. From the moment I pulled this drawing out of Grace's backpack, I loved it. She rarely draws animals from this perspective and those two little teeth make me smile every time I see them.)
Perhaps with a bit of luck we'll make some decent progress on our next read-aloud book, "The Mysterious Benedict Society" by Trenton Lee Stewart. It's a thick one, so I'm thinking that we're going to have to pick up our pace a bit.
Happy reading!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Desserts for Dads.

One of the things Grace and I pride ourselves on is making delicious homemade desserts for others. For Father's Day, this was no exception. I allowed Grace to select what she wanted to make for Dean and Pop. It was Oreo brownies for Pop and a Hershey's cake for Dean. Oh how this girl loves chocolate!
For Pop, we used our favorite brownie recipe then added crumbled Oreos (I must confess that I hadn't purchased Oreos in quite some time due to their pesky ingredient list. We usually use a hippie (per Dean) version instead) to the batter and topped the mixture with additional cookies just prior to baking.
And for Dean, we made his cake to go along with our Black Kow theme. You see Dean is such a good sport hauling bag after bag (weighing a hefty fifty pounds a piece) of manure to our backyard each growing season. So we decided to order him the official Black Kow t-shirt and cap set for his Father's Day gift. For the cake, Grace used Oreos once again, but this time they were crushed to look like a bag of cow manure had spilled all over the cake.


So there you have it - the desserts we made for the special Dads in our lives.
Have a wonderful Father's Day!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Looking for shark's teeth.

One of the items on our summer to do list was to go hunting for fossilized shark's teeth. Our local beaches aren't known for them (in fact, we've never found one) but just a bit south of us in Venice, well the beaches there are known to be the "shark teeth hunting capital of the world". So needless to say, we headed to Venice and the shores of Caspersen Beach for a little hunting.
When we arrived you could see that everyone was there for the same purpose..... to find teeth. People were hunched over scanning and sifting through the sand and shell (this beach is known for shelling too) looking for an intact tooth (fragments could be found everywhere). Some individuals were quite well equipped, while others like ourselves came with some dollar store implement, such as a kitchen strainer, to aid the search.
A few minutes into our hunting, Grace lost interest and decided that she had other plans. She was hopeful to catch a fish instead. So for our nearly four hour visit she hung around the rocky part of the coast with her net in hand searching for fish. Although the little fish were plentiful, they were a bit too quick and were spared a brief visit in the sand pail. Perhaps next time.

Our visit yielded about a dozen teeth. Most of them are tiny, as you can see from the picture of Grace's hand above, but they're fossilized shark teeth none the less. Perhaps next time we'll find a prized "big one" but until then we'll be perfectly content with the little ones!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Dragon making - part 1.

I thought it would be a great idea for Grace and I to make a quilt together this summer. Perhaps a wonky log cabin pattern that didn't require a precise seam allowance. When I mentioned my idea to her she was quick to respond with, "Not much", otherwise known as I'm not interested.
Several days later the topic of sewing came up again and Grace offered a suggestion for an alternative project...... making a dragon. So to make a long story short, we're making/sewing a dragon together this summer and its' creation is underway.

We're using a pattern from Soto Softies which we purchased from Etsy. Since the pattern recommended using wool felt, a trip to Rainbow's End Quilt Shop was in order (it's the only place I know where to purchase wool felt with the exception of the internet). Thankfully, while Grace was visiting with Meme and Pop over the weekend, Meme took her to select three felt colors that the pattern called for.
This morning, after taking the dogs for a walk in the park, we officially started the dragon. We're being sure to take things slow and steady, to avoid any unnecessary frustration. Today's goal was to cut out all of the required pattern pieces and tomorrow we plan to start sewing.
 We'll keep you posted on our progress!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Pretzels for lunch.

Grace is a huge fan of sweet soft-baked pretzels. When the rare opportunity arises when we find ourselves at a mall, whether from "Pretzel Twister" or "Auntie Anne's", we're sure to purchase one (or perhaps two).

Grace has been requesting to make a batch of pretzels at home for quite some time now. Ours certainly don't taste quite as good as the mall bought variety (perhaps because we use a fair amount of whole grain flour) but they are tasty none the less. We've tried numerous recipes but we find ourselves using a recipe from Gale Gand, which we've tweaked to accommodate the flour we use and Grace's sweet tooth.

The results of our pretzel making can be seen above. We had our timing right and they came out of the oven just in time for lunch. Pretzels and banana smoothies make for a delicious lunch I tell you!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

First day of summer.

On this first day of June and our first official day of summer vacation I expected to be displaying a picture of Grace playing the piano during her recital. But alas, she awoke with a sore throat and fever so we had a change in plans. Instead we had a rather lazy day around the house.

Due to our laziness we managed to finish our first read-aloud book of the summer, "Because of Winn-Dixie" by Kate DiCamillo. Dean and I had gotten away from reading aloud to Grace each evening (for reasons which I'll share later) so it certainly feels great to be back at it.

We hope you'll join us this summer and see what we're up to!