Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Palisades Park has a New Playground

Saturday even we stopped by Palisades Park (their facebook page. It's more current) for a little hiking and A LOT of playing on their new playground equipment. The kids love hiking AND parks, so it's always a treat to do both at one place.

Daughter found a rogue birthday balloon right as we started on the trail. She carried it for the entire hike.

At an intersection, announcing the letters. Well, Daughter was announcing letters. Son was just saying what she said. He's still learning.

"Look, Mommy. This tree is just my size. It's a for-me-tree."

We took a shorter hike than we usually do (only about 30 minutes) because I didn't want the kids to be too tired to try out the new playgrounds.

PlaygroundS? yes, two. There's one area designed for 2-5 year olds and a larger scale area for 5-12 year olds. The kids played in and loved both areas but really loved that the smaller equipment was just their size. (Remember how I've mentioned that Daughter names parks based on memorable things in them? She named this the Ryland and Finny park because it's their size)

I think this is the first time she's used playground rings.

His first time. hanging out.

monkey bars are a lot harder now that I'm older. Husband and I both tried the monkey bars on the older playground and laughed and laughed at how hard it was for us 'old timers'

easy peasy for a super climber

more climbing

tunnel sliding

Husband, the creeper, ALWAYS such a hands on parent. ;-)

We only had two negatives about the playgrounds. Inside the fence playgrounds, there was NO WHERE for parents to sit down except the ground - which was very soft because of all the wood shavings, but still. A bench wouldn't have broken anyone's budget. AND the swings. They were all ridiculously low to the ground. like when the kids sat in swing on either playground their bottoms were only about 4 inches off the ground!

Other than that, we all had a great time. Well, the kids had a great time regardless of those two things. They don't care about benches and too short swings!

If I ever take the kids by myself for hiking and playground fun, I will be breaking out The Mighty.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Our First Strawberry Pickin' Adventure

Saturday, I suggested we go berry picking. Tiffany went strawberry picking a few weeks ago and I wanted to give it a try too.

I actually had blueberries in mind, but quickly learned they aren't in season for a couple of more weeks around here.

Husband made a few calls to some farms we found on pickyourown.org (amazing, AMAZING resource for all things farming) and we ended up driving about 20 minutes to Jerry Marsh Farms (the first one Husband called, he liked to remind me)

(sigh) It was so much fun.

I was so glad to hear, "We only spray with peppermint oil, so don't worry. The kids can eat all they want out there," from the sweet lady who handed us our baskets and pointed us to where no one had been picking that day.

Daughter did a great job. When I told her to only pick the red ones, she said, "I know, Mommy. Just like tomatoes."

Son and Husband picking.

Just a tiny tiny sample of how wonderful the fruit looked. And tasted ... wow. I don't think I can ever eat a store bought strawberry again. Or at least not without thinking of these babies.

Daughter sampling her picks.

This was the half-way point when we stopped ...

... for an ice water break.
It took Husband and I (with minimal help from the kids) less than an hour to fill two buckets full of these great strawberries. And Husband got some GREAT berries. He was more picky than me and ended up with bigger berries.

Son, struttin' out covered in berry juice.
We really had such a great time. It's just really nice and rewarding to get to enjoy something as a family. And everyone have a good time. We'll definitely be visiting Jerry Marsh Farms again!

One of the two camels that live at the farm next door to Jerry Marsh! The kids got such a kick out of see him. They both remembered the camel from the zoo a couple of weeks ago.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

My June 5k - registered

In sticking to my "At least one race a month until October" goal, I have registered for my June race.

I'm running the Race to the Courthouse in downtown BHM. It's the first race that Husband ran two years ago and he really enjoyed it.

He's thinking about entering also (and running with the double stroller and kids).

We're already planning on running a practice race on the route the Sunday before. I think running downtown is pretty cool. (I'd also like to live there)

I'm excited.

We've kept up a very consistent schedule of running at night on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. But my shins and calves have been KILLING me, so I usually take one of those nights slower than normal but for a little break.

It's been a nice family activity. We're running a new route (not the cemetery anymore) that ends up right at the community ball parks and playground. So Husband and I run/walk for 30 minutes then the kids get to play for about an hour. Then we walk home. It works out really well for us.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Mennonites Wear Little Black Dresses?

I just finished reading Mennonite in a Little Black Dress By Rhoda Janzen.

And before I say anything else, you should head over to Reading is Cheaper than Therapy because we're discussing the heck out of it.

OK, now for my general assessment of it. To be honest, I was slightly disappointed. The title + the inside front cover gave me a slightly different (better) impression of what the book was going to be about/laid out/presented/whatever.

While I LOVED, Rhoda's words and general writing style I didn't really seem to like Rhoda (sorry, if you ever read this Rhoda. maybe we should have coffee sometime, I'd probably like you better in person) and that really weighed on my general feelings of the book.

I was pulled in by the story of a women who was raised Mennonite, then departed during her education, married a man who left her 15 years later for a man he met on gay.com. She then returns broken (literally and figuratively) to her parents' home to help recover. I was there. That's the story I wanted to read. But it ended up being so much more. There was a lot more to the marriage that left me screaming, "HOW COULD YOU REMAIN IN THIS MARRIAGE FOR 15 YEARS!?!?"

That and I kept getting the Mennonites and the Amish mixed up in my head. She would mention watching television and I would get distracted because I didn't think Mennonites even had electricity. The Appendix was a primer on Mennonites and it would have helped to have that in the front or even for me to have noticed it on the Table of Contents page. But I don't like to know what's coming so I never really read chapter titles on the Table of Contents.

I did enjoy the stories of her childhood and other Mennonite musings. That was fun and interesting. Plus, Rhoda does tell a good story.

Overall, I'm glad I read it. It led to some nice discussion with friends. But it was a slow read because I just lost interest.

Friday, May 27, 2011

practice practice practice

Yesterday, I posted the wonky log cabin quilts that still needed to be quilted and bound. I took those pictures two weeks ago. And I still haven't quilted or bound them. Because I needed practice, practice, oh yea, and some more practice with quilting and binding. The two quilts I made for the kids taught me two things about quilting. 1. This isn't as hard as I thought. and 2. This is pretty hard to perfect.

I want the two latest quilts to look great. Or at least much much better. So I decided to set them aside until I could get some practice on smaller, less important projects.

Plus, thanks to JSS, I have this fun thing to learn how to use. And it's not as hard as I thought but it's pretty hard to make it look great. (That's a free motion quilting foot, btw)
So, I've been working on drink coasters to practice quilting and mug rugs to practice quilting and binding. I went to Jo-Ann and bought 6 fat quarters and got to cutting. I used batting left over from the wonky log cabin quilts, so this ended up being a fairly low cost practice experience.

the coasters. they are about 4.25in squares. I was playing around with seam allowances on the first few so they are a little smaller. Most of the free motion quilting on these are hilariously bad. A couple are good and there's one that I would say I did a great job on. But it was practice. Plus, they make pretty good drink coasters. Practice + Purpose = Hurray.

I found this GREAT blog that specializes in free motion quilting and wow. The patterns and shapes are amazing. I've been hypnotized by Leah's blog numerous times.

Next, I moved up to the mug rugs (ie bigger drink coasters with binding or little tiny tiny quilts). These are 6in squares. I think the free motion quilting looks much better on these. Maybe because I had a bigger area to work with. Maybe because the practice was paying off. Or maybe, just maybe because I slowed down on the lead foot and took better care.

The binding on some of these are HORRIBLE. Some of them I didn't even finish because of how bad they looked. But a few ... the last three to be exact, I seemed to "get it" a little better the binding looked (mostly) how binding is supposed to look.
Most of all I learned that I need to slow down and spend more time making my stitches straight, because it does matter and it does make a difference ... WELL, actually most of all I learned that I bound the kids' quilts "incorrectly" It's hard to explain what I was doing exactly, but let's just say that I learned the importance of ironing the binding. And let me tell you, doing it the correct way - much much easier. I still have to work on and be very mindful on the corners, but they look much better than when I started.

I feel like I can go ahead and quilt and bind the wonky log cabin quilts (but I'm quilting in the ditch on those, no free motion quilting). Then I've got the place mats and after that some reusable grocery bags. But more on that later.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Wonky Log Cabin Fronts revealed

I have both quilt fronts finished and basted.

But before I quilt and bind them, I am practicing quilting and binding. More on that on Friday.

This is the first one and my favorite. I like the grey border.

This is the second on and Husband's favorite. He thinks it looks brighter and more cheerful than the first.

a closer shot to better show that the ONLY solid fabric I used is the bright blue. Everything else on the front has pattern (even the sashing)

As you can see, the back is the solid black bed sheet and the binding will be the same blue pattern I used for the center squares.

This is my first "big" quilt project and because I didn't follow a pattern, I had no clue how much fabric to buy. And guess what ... I overbought. a lot. as in at least one yard extra for each fabric!

I have plans for all that extra. It was about a year ago that I got geeked up about the idea of more family dinners and cloth napkins (and place mats) We've been using those same green place mats and black napkins for the whole year. The napkins are still in great shape but the place mats are definitely showing their use. Don't you think this left over fabric would look great as place mats to match my blue dishes and black napkins? yes, yes. me too. I haven't started those yet though. But I have a tutorial in mind and I'm excited.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

a little fun in the rain

The kids' snow boots are now rain boots. (Well, Daughter outgrew her snow boots, got a new pair and Daughter's old snow boots became Son's new snow boots) I wish they had their raincoats, but they were in the car, with Husband at work.

stomping the puddles.

collecting water

sidewalk chalk art in the rain
btw, when we came in and I took those boots off, all four of them had water in them!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sunday Adventure: High Falls

Sunday we went on an adventure to High Falls. It's up around Bucks Pocket and Lake Guntersville which is an area we love to visit so we'd been wanting to go for awhile.

Loaded down with our towels, swimsuits, a cooler of snacks, sunscreen, water shoes and puddle jumpers, we were ready. (admission is free but there's a donation box)

When we got to the falls, the first thing we did was go stand on the bridge. (you can't actually see the falls from the bridge because of how they fall)

the view from the left side of the bridge. The falls are to the right.

I got the kids water shoes and they both seemed to like them, but the bottom is VERY smooth rock (and because of the fast moving water, very little algae/moss) It was easy to walk on barefoot.

a view of the falls

a view of Husband, the kids and the bridge from the falls

a pretty cool water eroded arch in the rock.

That guy who looks like he's standing in the water was actually cliff jumping. Husband wanted to try it but then I reminded him of the rope swing incident at the river and the 9 staples he got in his head as a result. So instead we just watched. Son got really into it. He was cheering and screaming for the jumpers. And kept saying it was his turn next. ha. never Son.

taking a juice/cheese stick/grape/reapply sunscreen break

Husband and Daughter walking to the falls
The water is pretty shallow and really easy to walk it. It was pretty ideal for us.

at the playground area on the way back to the car

they had a fantastic time.
I didn't take very many pictures or even what I would consider ONE good picture. But I had my swimsuit and I was in the water playing with the kids 90% of the time and I guess that's how it should be. It was a great family fun day.

Lots of pictures of plants

OK, OK. The garden has been growing and I've been excited about it.

Daughter's Husky Cherry Red (she's got about a dozen baby tomatoes on her plant)
Son's Husky Cherry Red? ZERO tomatoes, because he can't stop picking them!

One of the four Rutgers. They are just started to bloom.

The three Black Beauty Zucchini Squash.
There were only supposed to be 2, but a rogue seed made its way into the dirt and I haven't culled it.

The two Early Golden Summer Crookneck Squash

The three cucumber (the one in the middle is much smaller because I planted it later)


The onions.

The three Juliets that I started from seeds. They're still much smaller than the store bought ones. And I still have the last two plants to deliver to JSS.

The first bloom on one of the four Homesteads. (They're about the size of the Rutgers)

Blooms on the store bought Juliets! I'm pretty excited. I remember last year when we had 4 Juliets and I'd pick 50 of the little tomatoes a day sometimes. And this year we have SEVEN.
Tomato overload.

three of the four muskmelons plants. I planted them close to the fence to they could climb it. It happened like that accidentally last year and I liked the results. The ones that grew up the fence seemed to do better than the ones that grew on the ground.

the blueberries. The two smaller ones in the front are the Elliotts and the larger one in the back is a Chippewa. Hurray for cross-pollination!

three of the five (!!) butternut squash. I planted as many by the fence as I could but there are a couple that will be growing on the ground.

The blackberries didn't make it. I'm a little sad. I don't like to see anything (that includes plants in my garden) die. But I've been watering them pruning back the dead parts and there's already new growth on one of the plants. That's promising. Husband doesn't seem to mind too much that they're gone. If they don't bounce back next year, we'll probably replace them.
There's still not much/anything really going on with the fennel. soon hopefully. And, of course, the mint and basil are doing great. I've made four batches of pesto so far and gallons and gallons of mint tea.