Monday, July 25, 2011

Two Blonde Peas in a Pod

A few weeks ago I had the rare opportunity to visit with my younger sis, Jen. She has three kiddos and thus doesn't travel much, but she made an exception and spent a week at my parent's home in Oregon. I went down with Lana for a couple days. Jen has two sons, soon-to-be 6-year old Clint, and 19-month old Grant and a sassy princess daughter, soon-to-be 4-year old Sandy.

That little blonde girl has been one of my favorite sprites since she was born. Adorable, fiercely independent, and a lover of all things pink, glittery and/or frilly. She quickly became one of Lana's favorites too, and seeing these two white-blonde babes play together so nicely made my heart sing.

I'd catch a peek of them together, rolling around on the blow-up air mattress and wonder, What in the world are they laughing at? Neither could tell me, nor could they tell each other, but apparently just being small and cute and loved and playing with your new favorite cousin is reason enough to laugh (and laugh and laugh).

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Summer Cooking Challenge

For me, summertime is just different than the other times of year. Sure, I still go to work the same, have the same responsibilities and duties, see the same people and for the most part stick to the same schedule, but it's still different. Days are longer, more time is spent outside, the BBQ is fired up more often and it seems there's a bevy of birthdays to celebrate, so see, summer really is special.

To make this fleeting time even more memorable, I thought I'd be intentional about challenging myself in the kitchen. I've created a sort of "summer cooking bucket list" that I want to try to complete between now and Labor Day. That list includes:

1. Caprese Salad.
It's too simple. Tomato, fresh mozzarella, basil and a swirl of vinegar and oil. There are several different variations out there, but all have the same basic ingredients. The Pioneer Woman has a beautiful recipe here.

This picture is my version. I used olive oil and balsamic vinegar and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. I thought it was quite delicious and will be making it again, especially when our garden tomatoes are ripe. Dan (a despiser of fresh tomatoes) didn't care of the Caprese Salad and Lana took a bite, removed it from her mouth and gave it back to me, saying politely, "Here go Mommy." I guess she didn't care for it much either. Oh well, more for me.

2. Marshmallows.
Have any of you ever actually made your own marshmallows? I've been seeing this a lot lately in food magazines and cooking blogs, and really, it doesn't look too tough. Here's one easy-sounding recipe I've looked over. Although if I can successfully make marshmallows, I don't know that I'd be okay with them being toasted on a bonfire.

3. Vegetarian Dinners.
No, we're not going all herbivore on you. We just aren't going to have a freezer full of beef until the latter part of August, so I need to get creative. Sure, I could buy beef at the grocery store, but dang, that gets expensive. So we've been rationing out our remaining beef and including more pork, chicken, and yes, the occasional meat-free meal. So far I've made a veggie pasta primavera, a Mario Batali inspired homemade vegetable marina sauce with fresh pasta, and black bean chili. But those were my only three good ideas, so any recipes or ideas you have would be much appreciated. Lana has eaten these meat-free meals just fine and Dan commented on the lack of meat while eating two out of the three - not bad, I'd say.

4. Lemon Cheesecake.
Doesn't that just sound like the perfect summer dessert? Anyone have a trusted and tried recipe?

5. Turnips.
Our garden overfloweth with turnips. According to what I've been reading on food blogs, turnips are the root vegetable du jour, so apparently we're trendy. Yay us! So far I've made a roasted vegetable dish loaded with turnips, carrots, potatoes and onions.

We all liked it and Lana even asked for more at dinner, "More bege-ables please!"
I also made a broccoli-potato-turnip mash on Friday and it was a hit. However, we've got a ton more turnips to use up before the summer is over. Does anyone know how to preserve turnips?

So, what foods do you like cooking in the summer? Any other items you'd add to my summer cooking challenge?
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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Happy 4th of July! (only 10 days late)

For this year's Independence Day festivities, our family piled way too much stuff in the truck and headed west. Dan had several days worth of fun and frivolity planned for our Lynden visit, and he was certainly a master of negotiating the social calendar.

We had playdates at the park:

Lynden's Million Smiles Park is so cute and perfect for little kids.

The cousins had a great time playing together.

Lana liked driving the tractor.

And she overcame her fear of the slide with help from a friend.

Dan also arranged for us to go to three BBQs/fireworks shows in three days. That meant three BBQ dinners, three chances to catch on fire and three really late nights for Lana. We needn't have worried though - she was a champ and finally learned how to sleep in.

Playing on the gator with the big kids.

Getting ready for a road trip with a new friend. (Lana would later get run over by that little pick-up when a 3-year old with a short attention span got behind the wheel.)

Sparklers with Daddy!

Watching fireworks with the kids.

Lounging in the best chairs ever. I love those chairs and think we should own some, don't you?

More sparklers! (an no, no eyes were lost in this endeavor)

Spending the long holiday weekend with my family was awesome! Happy (late) Independence Day from the Lenssens.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

And America's Next Top Model is.....

...Lana, of course!

Okay, so actually that show scares me, but these pictures certainly don't!

A couple weeks after the big birthday party, I talked Angela, my sweet friend/sister-in-law (she was my friend first, then decided she wanted the job of sister-in-law later) into meeting us at a local park for a little photo-shoot. Lana wasn't being super-cooperative, but you'd never know based on how awesome the pictures turned out.

(pretty in pink)

(peek-a-boo! I see you!)