Pictures! Before and Afters

You have all been so patient with me as I took time off from the blog to focus on our house remodel project. For three months we worked tirelessly to finish and move from the basement back up to the daylight.

Here is what our main living level looked like in January:

Exterior

 

 

 

Living room
Dining room
Kitchen/dine-in area
Kitchen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, the after photos!

Exterior remodel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Entry remodel
Living room remodel
Dining room remodel
Kitchen remodel!

Remodel Humor

I posted back in January that I would be down for about 6 weeks or so while we remodeled our main living level which includes kitchen, living room and dining room. As anyone who has ever attempted to fix something, this took longer than any calendar projections could have predicted. While we haven’t had any major setbacks, the timing of various sub-contractors, adding in more help, us doing certain projects have led us to April. We are so close.

It’s also nearly time to start planting things outside! What is on your garden plan this year? What delicious things are you cooking this spring? We are hosting brunch next weekend in hopefully a mostly finished space. I’m leaning heavily towards muffins and quiches for our brunch. I’d love to make everything ahead of time to be able to sit and enjoy the meal, the people, and the new space.

 

Honey Bees

beehive
Here is my first bee hive! Custom paint job by yours truly.

Honey bees and bees in general help pollinate close to 1/3 of our total food supply. Fruits, squash, tomatoes, potatoes, even feed for animals which later end up on our dinner plates all depend on bees and pollinators. But the bees are dying folks. In 2016, 9 different types of bees were put on the endangered species list. Despite being able to reproduce entire colonies, the bees are having a hard go of it living with us humans.

 

 

Here’s how you can help:

I would like to ask all of you to try one year without calling a garden/lawn service to spray your yard. Fertilizers can be applied in granular form and not cause as much destruction to bees as sprays (and the drift which comes from spraying). Fungicides and herbicides should only be sprayed where and when absolutely necessary, and on a calm day with no wind.

What we are seeing in the bee world is the bee’s inability to fight off predators such as the varroa mite, decreased largely by pesticides and herbicides applied to vast swaths of land. You may be thinking, “I don’t live on a farm, so a little spraying of my 1,000 square foot yard is nothing.” but what you don’t know is a fellow neighbor may be trying to keep bees and that does directly affect those hives and the bees ability to help support area gardens and landscaping.

Not only do bees help pollinate our very food system, they also pollinate our roses, flowering bushes and trees, landscaping flowers and grasses. Simply put, we need the bees and it’s crucial we get serious about helping them.

If you don’t want to get into beekeeping, but do want to help in other ways, you could easily make a mason bee hive, plant pollinator and bee-friendly plants in containers or landscaping, and cut back a lawn treatments or even landscape so you don’t have a large lawn to treat.

Why I’m pushing this topic on a food blog:

I appreciate that so many of you come here for food recipes and the occasional photos. Bees need our help, and honestly, we all enjoy eating. Without bees, many of our favorite foods will simply cease to exist. Without bees, we do not have food, which means we don’t have recipes, which means our existence will greatly be affected. I’m starting my first bee hive this spring, now that my city has finally allowed it. I look forward to being a steward to these critters, as well as sharing more updates and hopefully yummy recipes featuring honey in them!

 

Soup Season

Today I bring you hugs in mugs or hugs in bowls. Soul-satisfying, tummy-warmers for an extremely cold day. There are broth-based soups for those watching themselves post-holidays, thick creamy soups for those who just want a hug, there are cheesy for the Sconies among us, there’s vegetarian options and hearty meaty options. It’s all here. Each picture links directly to the recipe making it even easier to eat with your eyes.

Stay warm my friends.

chicken corn chowder
Chicken Corn Chowder
Wisconsin Beer Cheese Soup
Squash Apple Soup
Cheddar Broccoli Soup
Beef Stew
French Onion Soup
Chili
Roasted Tomato Soup

New Year New Kitchen!

Happy New Year! After a much needed break, I am happy to be back and ready to make 2017 a great year! But first, a confession.

I over-committed. Does that ever happen to you? I couldn’t stop raising my hand, volunteering, saying “yes” to almost every single thing that came up between May and November. To say I ran dry, felt miserable, and wasn’t the bestest person to be around may be a slight understatement. I constantly felt like I wasn’t giving my best, but still felt like I was doing all I could with what I had to work with. While many commitments are running high yet (seriously thankful for the holiday break when everything went into hibernation!!) I know there is light at the end of the tunnel. Approximately May. I have learned my lesson. I will still be volunteering a lot, but how and how often and with what projects will most certainly change.

And speaking of change…we are about to enter into a major demolition project! I’m so excited (scared, thrilled, nervous, happy, lots of feels here folks)! We live in a tri-level house with a main living floor with kitchen, dining room and living room, bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs, and a den/family room on the lower level. This summer we worked several weekends replacing all of the windows ¬†on the main level and lower level. We added a new patio door were a window once was. All of this was done on brick exterior. The top level has siding on it, and that’s a whole other project. There was brick repair that needed to happen, we blew threw a wall to make way for a patio door, and we closed up a window over the current sink so we can hang new cabinets there. We also filled in a useless service door in the garage. After all of that, about late October, we began building a patio. We used bricks from the Wisconsin Memorial Union Terrace (free, recycled), and now have a nice 10×10 patio that gets me closer to the garden.

After many meetings, conversations, and selection processes, we are about to start the inside work. There is a wall which runs between the kitchen and living room, and a wall between the dining room and kitchen. Both will be gone. The larger wall is load bearing, so we are having a beam put in. We are adding a fireplace, wood flooring, reorienting the kitchen layout and I’m getting a walk-in pantry.

While the work is being done on the main level, our current appliances will move to the basement so we can continue to cook and live relatively unaffected. I have begun the process of making meals in advance for quick pull out, defrost and cook. Life will go on no matter what is happening inside the house, so I figure the more I plan and do what I can now, the less stressed I will be later. Fingers crossed this is true.

Whether you make resolutions, goals, or just keep on keepin’ on, here’s to a fresh start in a new year!

 

Gearing Up for Back-to-School

We start school on Thursday. Le sigh. It’s been a wonderful summer, so I’m sorry to see it go, but I’m also so gosh darn excited for the fall and getting back to some more “normal” routines that I’m also thankful it’s coming. With back to school also means I’m back to working at the orchard! The girls are in dance lessons this year, and Anna will be taking some art classes that coincide with most of the weeks I’m working too. Since it is starting to feel like we are going to be very busy bees (did I mention we are on the very verge of ordering our kitchen cabinets which means we may be in full demo mode any day now? eeek!) I have been trying to pull together an entire month of meals to 1. Keep me on track and organized, 2. Plan better for meals so I’m not panicked, and 3. So anything at all I can prep ahead for, buy ahead for, and pre-cook can only make my life a little easier. Even on the nights we don’t have things going on (yeah, right!), it’s nice to know what the meal plan is.

Here is a list of September meals I’m pulling together. Some of these meals will be doubled throughout the month like spaghetti, tacos, pizza, and broccoli cheddar soup. Others will repeat over the course of September and October like chili, squash apple soup, roasted tomato soup, lasagna, and chicken enchiladas. I will also sprinkle in Amazing Joes, pork chops (roasted rosemary, creamy mushroom, and with apples and cheesy grits), roasted chicken, pot roast with potatoes and carrots, meatloaf with squash and potatoes, and cheesy grits with rainbow chard and apple sausage.

Whether your kids have already headed back or are mere days (hours?) away from heading out the door and complicating your schedule further, take a little time to plan out your meals, when you can get to the grocery store, and keep tabs on what you need to pack those lunches! Your sanity and family will thank you!

 

My Favorite Dish

arugula tomato egg and bacon

I could eat this dish for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s the perfect dish in my opinion, but is especially wonderful this time of year when I have way too many cherry tomatoes and not enough meals to use them all up. I’ve written about this before, but it continues to get more beautiful each time I make it. Just look at those colors!

Close up!arugula tomato and egg

It’s easy to whip together, looks impressive, and best of all, half of it comes straight from the garden. If you are lucky enough to keep chickens, more than half comes from your yard. I have several different varieties of cherry tomatoes this year, which adds a lot of different colors to this dish. I could go on and on about how yummy this is, but wouldn’t you rather taste it?

For the bread part, I will say you can use anything you like. Have a left over croissant? Toast it and enjoy the extra butteriness. Have sourdough? Toast on my friend. I’ve tried them all and yes, they work.

 

Arugula, Tomato and Egg
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Fresh, light, creamy, and wonderful.
Servings Prep Time
1 person 1 minute
Cook Time
6 minutes
Servings Prep Time
1 person 1 minute
Cook Time
6 minutes
Arugula, Tomato and Egg
BigOven - Save recipe or add to grocery list
Yum
Print Recipe
Fresh, light, creamy, and wonderful.
Servings Prep Time
1 person 1 minute
Cook Time
6 minutes
Servings Prep Time
1 person 1 minute
Cook Time
6 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: person
Instructions
  1. Bring a pot of water to boil, and gently place egg in. Turn heat down to medium high, cook for 5 minutes 20 seconds. While egg is cooking, place arugula on a plate, cook bacon and crumble on top of arugula, slice tomatoes and place on top of arugula, and toast bread, cube, and place on top of the salad. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. When egg is finished, take off the shell and delicately place on top of the salad. Drizzle the lemon dressing on the salad, and devour with your fork.
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Elderberry Jelly

Grandma made a delicious jelly from Elderberries. I never knew anyone else to ever make this jelly, not even my Mom. She would usually get a few extra jars from my Grandma. When Grandma passed, that was the end of the Elderberry jelly. Until now.

elderberry
Elderberry umbells with ripe berries

As I mentioned way back in March, I ordered and planted two different Elderberry plants. One died a tragic death, partially due to the late May frost, and partially due to unique soils I have in that patch of the yard. I didn’t realize how much amendments it needed until it was too late. While I mourned the loss of the one plant, I threw myself into watching the other one closely, and was rewarded with a few umbells of berries. It wasn’t enough to make a full batch (someday it will), so I went foraging and found enough in the area to fulfill my dream of making this jelly again.

elderberries

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The recipe I use can be found at Sure-Jell. My aunts all tell me it’s the same recipe Grandma used, and because I so desperately wanted to taste “that jelly” again, I did not add my own twists or flavors to it. I may next year, but this year I went standard. After cutting off the umbells, you need to take the berries off as shown in the photo above. From here you boil them to release the juices, totaling 3 cups. You may need to add a little water to get to the full 3 cups. I added 1 cup of water to the berries when cooking to help with keeping the bottom berries from burning.

…So August Happened

August flew by so fast that I’m still wondering where our summer went. Almost every day we had something planned, either touring area gardens, going to the zoo, the park, the playground, splash pads, pools, gathering with friends, going to the library, camping, birthdays, back-to-school shopping, picnics, outdoor music, and playdates. I surely can’t forget to mention our house remodel project has kicked off, starting with replacing all windows, a patio door, and putting in a new patio door where a window once was. This does not include the other activities I personally had going on with various groups, planning for the new school year, girl scout year, or what’s happening at the school garden and getting batches of salsa made up for our first ever Salsa Fundraiser! So in a few words, August happened.

This might have been the best summer yet. We filled our days with fun, but we weren’t so over booked that we felt crazy or rushed either. We enjoyed the summer days, but we are looking forward to the magic and beauty of fall too. On a personal level, I really can’t wait for sweaters, snuggly weather, apple cider, and cool air. My season is almost here, and I can’t wait.

 

Pope Farm Conservancy

DSC_0008 (2)Sometimes we stumble upon something amazing. A friend posted some photos on Facebook of a place that piqued my interest. Later that night on the evening news, a brief mention of the same place appeared. Without much preparation or foresight, I loaded up the girls the next morning and drove there. It was about a half hour drive from our house, but to see it again I’d drive 3 hours at least. Simply stunning! This magical place is called Pope Farm Conservancy, and here a few of my photos:
DSC_0010 (3) DSC_0018 (3) DSC_0039 (1) DSC_0040 (1) DSC_0043 (2) DSC_0044 (1)