Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Solving the Mystery


Detective Jack.

He never misses anything.

Now, where did it go?

Found it!

Easter Menu

I'm really excited about this Sunday. Not only are we giving our old church one last try (long story), but we're adding in supplemental side dishes to my mother-in-law's ham. If it's one thing I love to do, it's cook. Last weekend I think I spent a total of about 6 hours in the kitchen? I'm not joking either!

First on the menu....rolls.

The recipe is very simple and requires no kneading at all. Plus it's the same dough used for cinammon rolls (I know! Go figure!) so I can whip some cinammon rolls up too if I really wanted to!

Next up...Cheesy Hashbrowns

Using my mom's recipe plus a few of my own additions, this is my favorite tasty but non-diet food. By non-diet I mean that you will need to go on a diet if you aren't careful!

And for dessert we have...Lemon Meringue

I'll admit that I'm not making Lemon Meringue because I like it. In fact I really dislike fruit or citrus pies and cakes. I know, I'm weird. However, that doesn't mean I won't bake them for those who DO like them! The last Lemon Meringue pie I made ended up in a 2 hour disaster, leaving me with a very sore arm and a pie that was...well...dainty and fairly bland. For the effort I put into it, I was very discouraged. I need to redeem myself. I've made lemon meringue before in less than an hour, and I can do it agai!

Oh. That reminds me that I need to buy corn starch.

And finally...chocolate pie

I love this chocolate pie. I found it on the web one day as I was searching for a way to use a left over pie crust. Hormones led me to search for a chocolate pie and the web led me to this pie. Most chocolate pies have whipped cream on top, and although it's fine...I wasn't in the mood for whipped cream. I also didn't have any handy. Regardless, when I found this pie I was REALLY excited.

For one, it's chocolate.
For two it's not really a meringue but it still sort of is.
Next, it's chocolate (did I already mention that?).
And finally, it is really easy to make.

It only took 20 minutes from start to finish. Once I took a bite, I knew this was a great pie.

I'm really so excited to start cooking, but I know that they will be consumed here if we're not careful.

Side note: I need a job. Getting this excited over cooking four fairly mundane dishes should be a red flag here.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Zoey's Slimy Obsession

It's such a beautiful day today! You really couldn't have a better day in March. It's a shame Walter couldn't come out with us.

But wait! What is he looking at?

Of course! Jack's Worm Daycare!

Look at all of his happy customers.

This is Drilly, the longest of the worms.

He was pretty slimy though, so Jack let Zoey pick him up.

She loves Drilly!

He's such a great playmate.

Look at how long he is!

Look at the Moon, Drilly!

Whoops! Almost dropped her new friend!

That's okay. There are plenty of hugs for him.


Prepare yourself for it...

It's going to make you want to wash your mouth out...

Worm Kisses.

Happy, Happy

It's 76 degrees outside.
It's partly cloudy.
The trees are starting to bud.
The grass is starting to turn gree.

(Pssst - that's not a new mole on Zoey's mouth. That was lunch. Someone forgot to wipe up after lunch. Sorry.)

Unexpected Visitors (and a Question)

Last March, we had to toss one of the most beloved rubber ducks:

We ripped him apart and found a lot of really, really yucky mold. It was very upsetting to the kids, but we all mourned together.

The next day, we had some surprise visitors:

That's right, some ducks!

You lookin' at me...punk?

We figured it was all rather strange since we had just destroyed one of the rubber ducks. You know - duck retaliation. Who knows. Flash forward to last week. I looked at the window and found these champs:

That's right - Wood Ducks! Beautiful, wood ducks. Apparently when the snow melts and our pool cover looks like a swamp, birds think they own the joint.

We named this one Stanley.

And his mate is now Flo.

Regardless, we haven't seen them since. Maybe Walter is a better gaurd cat than we thought!

Okay, so onto news...

As you can tell, photos are back up and running. While they were down, I did go ahead and make a WordPress account: Now, there are pros and cons to both Blogger and WordPress. I won't go into them all, but I'm still deciding whether I stick with Blogger (easy to use, easy for you to use, storage upgrade purchased) OR go ahead and work with WordPress (more options, own domain now (like, less glitches).

Do you guys have any opinions?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Pardon the Mess

Blogspot is having some issues. I can't put up new photos, and some of the older photos aren't loading properly.

Despite having loads of photos to post from this last weekend, I can't put anything up. If it continues beyond Sunday, we're going to be moving to a new blog server.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

For the Record

Fact #1: We are ready for spring weather. Today it hit 60 degrees, and we spent about 4 hours outside running around, fishing (see Fact #2) and having a blast.

Fact #2: Never underestimate the power of a fishing pole. Jack was better at casting a line than I think any of use could have imagined. We had so much fun, it almost made up for the duck poop.

Fact #3: Playing outside for 4 hours when you're not used to it really is exhausting. Both kids fell asleep pretty darn quickly, but Zoey wins the contest with an amazing 5 minutes between being put into bed and snoring.

Fact #4: We have a packaged day tomorrow. Since it's supposed to rain on Saturday and we leave on Sunday, we're going to the zoo, trying the fishing again and hunting Easter eggs.

Moral of the story: I am forecasting a lot of sore muscles and exhaustion for the next few days!

(Unrelated Fact #5: Check out my sister-in-law's blog to the right - it's called "All About the Abbotts." Their newly 2-year old daughter had her birthday photos taken and let's just's madly adorable!)

I have some great photos though, and I can't wait to take some more! I won't admit how many have been taken thus far. A woman never reveals how much she weighs, her age, her natural hair color or how many photos were taken.

Now, on with your usual programming...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Life According to Kids

Lesson #1 (Jack): Growing Larger Feet
Jackson: Mommy, I'm going to walk a lot today, okay?
Me: Okay...why?
Jackson: Because when I walk, my feet grow!

Lesson #2 (Jack): Magic Owies
Jackson: Mommy, Mommy! When I took a bath, my owie melted! It's all gone!
Lesson #3 (Zoey): Sweeping the Kitchen
Zoey (upon picking up the broom in the kitchen): Oooo! Mommy, this is fun!
Lesson #4 (Zoey): Beds are Overrated
When the bed and a chair just won't do, it's okay to sleep on a hamper. That's right - just knock down the soft hamper and curl up on it!
(Pictures of said hamper slumber still coming!)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Ode to my Jack

This is my Jack. He's a four going on ten - he told me so himself! If you don't know Jack, then you're really missing out!!

He started out very, very small (barely over 4 pounds):

And now?
Well, let's just say that he's much bigger now!

He's sweet!

and he loves kisses!

I don't think he's ever met someone who he didn't like. Most are sure he's going to be in politics when he grows up.

This is a child who loves learning, especially about Christ. He wants to understand everything from loving Jesus to figuring out where Heaven is.

Quote (after talking to Travis about Papa Curtis being in heaven): Is Jesus-land next to Space-land?

He's always moving and always doing something...

...he scaled a chair at 9 months.
....he walked at 11 months.
.....he ran at 12 months.

He's the sort of kid who has no problems approaching a challenge head-on.

Sometimes he has trouble cleaning this room.
Sometimes he has trouble learning when fart jokes and raspberries are appropriate.
Sometimes he has trouble listening.

Regardless, he's mine. To know Jack is to love Jack.

He can cook ( cook).
He can take photos.
He can sing.
He can spell.
He can write (his name).

He can remember anything.
He can see anything.

I love my son!

Jackson: God is gracious!
Paul: Small

What a perfect combination for such a small baby who has grown into such a gracious child!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Mennonite Food, and more!

We're going to take a break from our daily programming to talk

I grew up Mennonite. Well, sort of. That would be a stretch. I went to a Mennonite church for the first few years before moving with my parents to become a United Methodist.

However, the point to be made here is that my heritage is Mennonite. If you want to learn more, check out their wikipedia page: Or, if you don't trust Wiki, try their own website:

Back to the story. Both sides of my grandparents were farmers...and Mennonite. We could go into their long story, but let's just say that my great-grandparents immigrated to Kansas from Russia (hence the term, Russian Mennonite) and brought with them many things, including turkey red wheat and verenika.

If you've ever worked outside, whether in a field or just in a garden, you know just how exhausting it can be. Farmers turned to high-carb, high-protein meals to make it through the tough work. This food is some of the best food you will ever eat.

Rolls (called zweibock, or two rolls)
Gravy (usually ham)
Cherry Mose (like a cherry pudding)

I think we had all of the above at every single meal from the time I was born to the year my grandmother passed away. And now, after receiving my grandmother's recipe book from my aunt, I've been able to make it too!! If you're interested, you can make it too.


Basically, the end product of verenika is going to look like a dumpling or a peorgie. You'll want to use a large, circular cutter to make the shape. Don't treat it like pastry dough - it's not going to act the same. Also, be sure to keep both the egg whites and the egg yolks! This recipe comes from an era where there was no waste!

For the dough:

2 cups of flour
2 cups of sour cream
2 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon of salt

Mix together and put in the fridge to chill for at least 10 minutes. This is a REALLY sticky dough, so sometimes I let it sit in the fridge, uncovered, for a few hours to a few days.

Next, make the filling:

2 egg yolks
2 cups of dry curd cottage cheese
1/2 teaspoon of pepper (I usually double it because I like it spicy)
1 teaspoon of salt

*Note: you can sometimes find dry curd cottage cheese at the store with the rest of the cottage cheese. If you do find it, check the date - it's not a product that's in high demand, so it's often the product that gets left on the shelf much longer than it should. If you can't find it, don't worry - just make your own by pouring regular cottage cheese into a strainer and rinsing it off. Then put it out on paper towels to dry. Ta da! Dry curd cottage cheese.

Now, on with the dumpling!

At this point, grab a stock pot and fill it about 2/3 full of water. Put it on high and get it boiling. My stove takes forever to boil that much water, so by the time I have 5-10 verenika to cook, it's boiling!

To make the dumpling, you'll need:

Lots of extra flour
Rolling Pin
Tablespoon (just use a regular spoon from your silverware drawer)
Circle cutter (at least 3" in diameter - look at your glassware collection if you don't have a true cutter)
2 plates
Paper towels
Slotted Spoon

First things first - flour your work area and a rolling pin. If you have an apron, put it on - you're going to need it.

To get things started, take your dough out the fridge and grab enough to fill your palm. It's not an exact science here. Next, toss it in the flour a few times to get it nice and floured. Lately I even knead it to make sure it's not too sticky.

Grab that rolling pin and roll out the dough. Don't get too greedy here - if you get it too thin, you're going to end up with a broken verenika. I always leave it at about 1/4 to 1/3 inch. Take that cutter and cut away.

STOP!! Before you go on, you have to remember two things:

1) It's not pastry dough
2) It's not cookie dough

When you cut the dough into a circle, press firmly but do NOT rotate the cutter like you would with cookies. No, no, no! Bad idea. Instead, pull the excess dough away from the cut dough instead of taking the cut dough away from the excess dough.

At this point I usually take my palm and flatten it out a bit more to give me some more work space. It's not required though.

Now filling it is when things get tricky - the first few times, don't expect a lot of filling. It's okay. I think I used half of a tablespoon to fill it for the first few meals because I wasn't comfortable with any more. Now I'm easily putting one and a half to two tablespoons into the dough!

To fill, simply hold the circle of dough in your hand - try to cup your hand a bit if you can. With your free hand, spoon the filling on top of the dough. Get your hands into the flour and start pinching around the edges. It's going to take practice - a lot of practice!

*NOTE: Like I said, this isn't pastry dough. You don't want to get anything wet to seal it. Get your hands as dry and floured as you can when you seal the edges. If you don't seal them well enough, you'll see them explode as they boil.

That's it! Ta-da! You have a verenika! Take your verenika and put it on a clean plate. Once you get going, you'll find that it gets pretty easy.

Once you get between 5-10 verenika made, put them carefully into the boiling water. Put the timer to 10 minutes and walk away to make more verenika. You want the let the verenika do what it needs to do!

When the timer goes off, simply use the slotted spoon to put the now-baked verenika onto a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat until you're out of the filling, out of the dough or just plain tired.

If you see pieces of cottage cheese floating in the water, don't worry - sometimes poorly sealed verenika explode (literally) in the water. It's not a huge deal. You just move on! You don't even have to change the water.

Now comes the fun part:

You could eat them now, but they would probably taste a little funny and slimey. Very few people I know who like verenika actually eat them at this point. It's like eat a cake without the frosting - people do it, but it's just the same!

You have two options:

1) Fry it

2) Bake it

I'll be honest - I've never baked it. In fact, I've only seen it actually BAKED at one restaurant in Hillsboro, Kansas! If you want to bake it, then good luck!

Frying it is really simply - melt butter in a saute pan over medium-low heat and put in a few verenika at a time. A few minutes on each side to brown it and there ya go. Fried verenika. I usually put them into the microwave to keep them warm as I fry the others, but you can do whatever floats your boat. Just be sure to use tongs to flip them to avoid splattering the butter.

I also prefer butter for a number of reasons:

1) It's butter. Flavor. Yumminess.
2) These babies love to stick to pans. There's nothing like going to turn a verenika and having it stick, spewing out the wonderful insides.
3) Olive oil doesn't taste as good.

You can try your own combinations though if you would prefer. See what you like!

Now, verenika alone is fine. But what you really need is...

Ham Gravy

Ham gravy is really idiot-proof.

First, brown cubed ham. The amount is up to you. I usually use about 1-2 cups, depending on my mood or how much I'm making. There's no rule here. Just throw the ham into a greased sauce pan on medium-low heat and put on a lid. Walk away for 5 minutes and then toss the ham a bit. Cover and let go another 5 minutes. You want those wonderful ham drippings to add even more flavor.

Next, add in flour. If there's not enough grease, melt some butter in there too. You want to make a rue to start the process of the gracy. I had some very lean ham this time around and had to use about 1/2 stick of butter and about 1/4 cup of flour. You can adjust it as necessary. Use a fork to combine the grease and flour to great a paste. Don't be afraid to get the ham involved too!

At this point, add in the milk. I would guess I added in 2-3 cups of milk, but it's all depending on how much you want to make. You can always adjust. Bump up the temperature to medium. Use a metal spatula to get those drippings and the rue mixed in with the milk. Then...let it go.

Once it boils, add in maybe 1/2 cup of heavy cream, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, pepper and onion poweder. Get it to the consistency you prefer, add in 1/4 cup of milk if it's going to sit for more than 10 minutes (remember, it's going to thicken as it sits) and start adding in the salt. Taste before adding any salt though - the ham is pretty darn salty itself!

See? Ta-da! No brainer. It's really hard to mess it up. Even if it burns, you're still doing great!

If you're careful with your time (or have more than one cook in the kitchen), you can usually cook and saute the vernika while making the gravy in about 60-90 minutes. That's for about 20-30 verenika and the gracy. It's not too shabby.

I should warn you - don't count it out until you've tried it. Most people I know cower at the thought of a cottage-cheese filled dumpling, but once you try it, you're going to love it!

My Point?

I just made these for dinner. If I can make them while feeling under the weather, anyone can make them!

Another point is that it snowed yesterday - I think around 6 inches. That means that today everything is melting and muddy. That means I'm stuck in the house with an ear infection and two crazy kids!

While there's been a bit of a photo lull since Denver, don't worry too much - the next two weeks are going to be filled with tons of photos! We're headed to Wichita to spend Palm Sunday with my family and then we're back at home to spend Easter with Trav's family. Also, we are making sushi (a very special sushi) this week and some Easter goodies.

Short story: patience is a virtue. If you can wait a little bit, you will be rewarded!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Moment With Jack: Episode 1

Scenario - After baths and tooth brushing, I'm getting Zoey ready for bed while Jack is putting on his PJs.

Jack: Mommy! There is cat pee!
Me: Where?
Jack: Down there!
Me: Where down there?

--At this point, I go ahead and get up. I go to the top of the stairs.--

Me: Where is it Jack? I don't see it.
Jack: (pointing) Right there!
Me: I still don't see it Jack.
Jack: (quickly makes his way to the bottom and put his finger on a spot) Right here!
Me: Jack, that's a smushed raisin.

Jack: Hmmm. Now Mommy, when was the last time you saw this cat pee?

MORAL OF THE STORY - there was no cat pee. Only a boy playing detective.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Luckiest

After a long trip, I expect a lot of things. Endless loads of laundry. Dirty house. Cranky kids.

I didn't expect this:

How did we get to this point?

Simply put, Zoey was on the couch just being cute.

Jack joined her.

She shared her blanket with him.

The rest...

as they say.... history.

And it will live on in photos for all to enjoy.

Walter was unimpressed.

Regardless, I still feel like the luckiest!

Guess I'll Go Eat Worms

Disclaimer: No worms were eaten in the process of these photos. A few were squished, but that's a different story. Either way - if you hate worms, turn back now!

The set-up: My mom spent a little time with us after helping set up for the consignment sale. Yesterday before leaving she took the kids for a walk. Upon returning home, I went out to take photos. Let's just say I saw this:

What is she doing, you ask?

Lining up worms!

Jack wasn't in the mood for worms - he just wanted to ride his bike!

But not Zoey. She was in love with the worms.

Yes Jack, she's that crazy!

Zoey is just...Zoey.

Jack also did the crazy--

He played with his trucks!

It takes a lot of focus, as you can tell.

Zoey never strayed from her worms though.

Some were big.

Some were long.

We called this one "Big Daddy." He was a fast little sucker!

And yes, Zoey would talk to them.

This is a special rock.

Yes, it's Jack's special rock.

Zoey was momentarily impressed.

Jack moved to blowing bubbles in front of the door for Walt.

The cat loved it!

Zoey showed her love for Walt too -- by showing him a worm!

She knows how silly that is!

Jack's trucks were workin' hard!

Yup - another worm.

She isn't cuddling a rock. She's holding a worm ON the rock to her face.

Crazy girl!

This one was a tiny worm!


About this time, Jack started to really obsess about climbing a tree.

He's just too short!

Meanwhile Zoey was playing with Kaki.

It was a fun game until Kaki left to go help Jack.

Where'd everyone go?

Oh wait...

There's my boy!

I think he liked being up in the tree.

Just imagine lots of leaves in the background. Before long there will be tons of green leaves everywhere!

Now, Zoey isn't one to get left behind.

She loved being in the tree! I think she wanted to climb higher.

She wasn't too upset when we didn't let her go any higher.

Good girl, Zoey!

Thanks Mr. Postman!

Now what is this?

Zoey was on a mission.

She WAS going to catch that thing!

Soon we moved to our play castle.

Happy girl!

See? Told you that she was my happy girl!

Jack was my happy boy - he found a long-lost Pez!