Graduation

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My middle child has graduated from elementary school…I can hardly believe it.  He is growing up so fast, where did these last 6 years go?  He is a lovely young man and I could not be prouder but I wish he would stay little for just a tiny bit longer.

He is moving up into middle school and to me that feels like a whole new chapter in our lives. Come the Fall he is going to be alone at school without one of his brothers at the same school.  All the boys will now be a separate schools, on different buses, and on different schedules.  That thought is enough to make my head start to buzz so I will put it aside for now.  Plenty of time to prepare for the next school year.

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*Sigh* Where has the time gone?  My little men….so adorable.

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A happy baby boy at Halloween.

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School photos are always such fun to look back on….above are two of my favorites.  Evan is always willing to wear funny party hats!  Brothers together at school for the last time. 

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Evan and his friends at the graduation reception. He is always such a ham! :)

June has been a hectic, fun, and crazy month.  I am looking forward to some down time in July.  We are California bound after Independence Day for some quality time with the grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles and I cannot wait to get there.  

This week is all about packing….wet suits, goggles, toys, bathing suits, socks, books, iPad, headphones, etc. the list feels endless.  I shall be as prepared as I possible and if we forget to pack something I am sure my super sister will have it for us when we arrive.

I wish everyone a fun, safe & healthy holiday weekend!   I will be blogging from the west coast when next we meet.

-Andi

 

 


Memorial Day Weekend

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I hope everyone had a fabulous Memorial Day weekend.  I was busy in the garden, attending our hometown parade, cleaning the grill and a myriad of other tasks that made the weekend fly by.  I think I might have been attacked by a poison ivy vine as well.  I have a breakout of itchy patches on my legs! UGGGHHHHH!  It seems that every year I am afflicted with a nasty rash from this vine. I guess that is the life of a novice gardener….I should know better by now and only garden in long pants but it was so darn hot over the weekend.  C’est la vie!

Anyway, enough of my whining.  

I was gifted with a beautiful butterfly bush for Mother’s Day and I planted it in the backyard on Sunday.  It is in just the right spot, plenty of sun, good drainage and I can see it from my bedroom window.  Perfect.

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My backyard had a large slope on one side.  It has been a challenge to landscape and truthfully I have neglected it for several years.  I am determined that this will be the year I conquer it.

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The backyard does not have the best soil and what is there is full of stones.  This is part of the struggle….dig out the stones and amend the natural soil with organic material and try to produce something better than what is already there.

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So pretty. :)

MEMORIAL DAY PARADE!

Our town parade is an annual tradition.  The boys and I always attend and for many years they have marched in the parade with their respective boy scout troops or sports teams.  This year however they opted out of marching.  They really just wanted to sit with friends, cheer on the marchers, catch candy, eat our picnic and enjoy the day as spectators.

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Old time fire engines, marching bands in traditional dress…classic small town parade.
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Veterans marching always make me choke up a bit. So handsome in his uniform.
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Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts marching with their troop leaders….I never get tired of seeing this.
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It’s not a parade unless there are kids on floats.
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I hope you all had a moment to enjoy a parade, family, bbq or just a quiet weekend to yourself.  

-Andi 


Baby Chicks

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Hello Readers!  I guess you have noticed that I have been absent from my blog for a little while.  I have received some very lovely emails asking where am I and is everything alright.  Let me bring you up to date on what has been happening.  My dear old dad is having some health issues and I have been flying back and forth to California over the last 2 months doing what I can to care for him pre & post surgery and helping with the follow-up visits to UCLA Medical Center, etc.  It has been emotionally draining and physically exhausting with round the clock medication and care.  My sister is doing the most work and I am trying to support her in any way I can…it is an ongoing process but I think we have gotten over the biggest hurdles and now it is about letting my dad take time to heal.  Fingers crossed that it’s all good news from here on out!


Baby Chicks have arrived at the farm!  My husband called me at work the other day to tell me that baby chicks had arrived via the US Mail.  Of course I had to go see the little beauties and let me tell you, they are precious!  The picture below shows the box they were shipped in from the hatchery.  26 fluffy little babies. 

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Sorry the photos are a little blurry….I snapped them quickly with my cell phone.  This buff colored beauty was running around chirping her head off until I picked her up. 

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The little guy below was the only one of his color in the shipment.  Funny thing about the chicks, each one I picked up immediately closed its eyes and snuggled in for a nap.

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It looks like this little guy is picking up his face to look at me from the rim of the water container but no…..they all have to lift up their beaks so the water goes down.  I am not sure if this is something adult chickens do as well.  I will have to wait and see if it continues as they grow larger. 

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Here is a shot of some of the babies huddling in the corner of their new pen.  They really are adorable and sooooo noisy.  

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Here is about 10 seconds of video. Can you hear how noisy these little fluff balls are?

 


French Onion Soup

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French onion soup is a wonderful meal on a chilly (brrrrr!) early spring day.  My version is not one a purist would approve but I think my recipe has a depth of flavor regular french onion soup does not have.  I start with bacon…..that statement alone should tell you that this version is going to be delicious. ;)

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I did trim off the large section of fat that you see in the top right portion of the photo below.  I think there was enough fat in the bacon I was dicing.  As you can see I used 9 half slices of regular bacon.

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I diced the bacon up into small cubes and dropped them into a hot skillet.

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The bacon is crispy and fat is rendering out of it so it’s almost ready to remove from the pan.

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Bacon removed from skillet and set aside on paper towelling to drain and be used later.

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Next I start on the home-made croutons.  I begin with day old bread and cut off 4 pieces, about 3/4″ thick.  I dice these slices up and place them into my hot skillet with the bacon drippings.  

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I toast the cubes, turning often, in the skillet until they are golden and crisp.

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When the bread cubes are ready I remove them from the skillet and set them aside for use later.

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Then I begin on the soup itself.  5 medium to large onions, 8 cups low sodium beef broth, 1 cup red wine, 1/2 tsp. hot sauce, freshly ground pepper, sliced swiss cheese, 2 tbsp. minced garlic, 1/2 stick butter, 4 tbsp. flour.

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I start by slicing up the onions as thinly as possible.  You will end up with a monster pile of onions. Note: I wear my reading glasses when I slice up my onions as it saves me the teary eyes you will have if you go at this with no eye protection.

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Next I heat up the soup pot and melt 1/2 stick of unsalted butter.

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When the butter has melted and is bubbling I add the onions, 2 tbsp. garlic and freshly ground black pepper.  You can add any additional seasonings your prefer as well.  Now would be the time to add cumin or thyme, etc.

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I let the onions cook down on medium heat for 20-30 minutes.  I turn the onions often as I am not looking to get any color on the onions, I only want them to soften slowly and cook down with the garlic.  

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Add 1 cup of red wine to the pot and let this bubble away until the wine has reduced and the pot has almost no liquid in it.  Then it is time to sprinkle 4 tbsp. of regular flour all over the onions.  Stir this up and let cook for another 5-10 minutes.  You are letting the flour incorporate into the onions and cooking that raw taste out of the flour.  

Next add 8 cups of low sodium beef broth, bring soup up to a boil then turn down the heat and simmer, covered, for an additional 20 minutes.  At this time I add a 1/2 tsp. of Sriracha hot sauce but you can leave this out if you don’t want any spice in your soup.  My mom always adds Worcestershire sauce to her version but I have omitted it here as I did not have any in the pantry.

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I set up my ramekins on the cutting board and ladle the onion soup into each, almost to the top rim of the ramekins.

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Now I add the finishing touches, sliced swiss cheese, home-made croutons and bacon bits. 

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A handful of croutons go on first.

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Then two slices of the swiss cheese on top and I tuck the cheese around the inner top of the ramekin.

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On top of the swiss cheese I sprinkle a few of the crispy, salty bacon bits.  Delicious!

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Then into the oven, with the broiler going, for about 5 minutes so the cheese bubbles and melts.  You need to watch the soup while it is under the broiler, the cheese and bacon bits can burn very quickly so now is not the time to leave the kitchen.

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I cannot express how delicious this soup is.  You just have to give it a try.  :)

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This recipe makes 5 servings.  *You many have noticed that I did not have salt listed as an ingredient in this recipe.  I add absolutely no additional salt to this dish as the bacon and swiss cheese have salt in them already as does the low sodium beef broth.  I am constantly tasting the soup as I make it.  Once the red wine and beef broth have been added you should taste the broth and see if you feel it needs any additional salt.  You can always add salt at the very end if you must but if you over salt the soup it is nearly impossible to cook it out and save the dish.

 

b80d03e4db86d10a4e0f6a7067008b33On a side note:  Clarissa Dickson Wright was one half of the Two Fat Ladies…she passed away last week at the age of only 66.  I thoroughly enjoyed watching the show and found both Clarissa and Jennifer very entertaining.  

Growing up my family lived in England for a short time as well as Australia for 5 years and so british food is a big part of my memories and childhood.  My mom learned to make all kinds of wonderful british dishes like bubble & squeak, Cornish pasties, scones & clotted cream, scotch eggs, beef & ale pie…….the list goes on.  

Farewell to Ms. Wright, she (& Jennifer) were always fun to watch.  May she rest in peace.

-Andi