Ezra's Birthday

On Saturday we celebrated Ezra's birthday with lots of friends around. I "catered" his birthday meal. He requested black beans and rice, watermelon, and blue cake with blue icing. In addition we had a pork tenderloin, fresh (homemade...first batch, ever!) mozzarella and tomato salad, and other random things I can't seem to remember right now.
It was a great day of play, fun, excitement, and thankfulness for our amazing 3 year old boy!

His blue cake was an interesting concoction. In an attempt to NOT use food dye I had tried to use fresh blueberry syrup to color the cake. Umm...of course that just gave me a purple cake! So I did end up having to use about 3 drops of blue food coloring but at least it was significantly less than if I had not "pre-dyed" it with the blueberries.
In other news, the chickens are growing fast. I'll post more pictures soon. Their wings are starting to grow and change color. They go out back with me each day for a field trip. They love to flap their wings, peck at the grass, and eventually take naps under the breeze of our large shade tree.
My posts are much less frequent these days thanks to sunny days, tennis lessons, VBS, and the baby chicks arrival. I definitely don't mind less computer time though!

Christmas in June

I finished this pillow today. It is another entry for the Kentucky State Fair, which starts in August. The division it is being entered into is "holiday pillow". Everything I am making for it is either something I will use in our home or something I will sell at the shop. I think this pillow will stay here with us! I was able to use a bunch of scraps left over from other projects and thus didn't spend a dime!

The chicks are a week old now and are doing great. Beside chick loving, we're playing lots of tennis these days~ entertaining here at the house~ celebrating birthdays~ and enjoying the nice summer days.

Our girls have arrived!

For my birthday Mike surprised me with chickens! They arrived this morning via our sweet mailman, Jim. We ordered extra for some friends in town and ended up with 25 in our shipment. We are keeping 4. They are salmon faverolles (the breed I have really been wanting!) and they are OH SO CUTE!

Without further ado....here are Lorelai, Sookie, Edith, and Maggie!

I had a fantastic birthday weekend. Full of fun and surprises! My dear friend Julie came by on my big day to spend some time with me and she brought me the most beautiful scarf. Mike and the boys surprised me with a massage~during the massage they were at home making pizza and dessert. Canaan and Ezra made me wonderful artwork as well. The next morning we continued with my birthday celebration with a trip to Cincinnati. Canaan had planned a lunch for me at Buca DiBeppo as well. It was a great birthday weekend~ I was absolutely spoiled and felt so loved.

Turning 31

Today I turn 31.
My 30th year was a great one.
Full of unexpected twists and turns, and yet I felt at peace knowing God had precisely orchestrated each part.
I don't have a birthday wish list this year.
As cliche as it sounds, this girl has been given the best gifts already. A husband and children that adore me and accept me for who I am and enable me to live my life to the fullest. I have a Father in Heaven that adores me even more.
We bought our first home this year; a dreamy little cottage; and each night I get
to lay my head on the biggest, softest pillowtop mattress ever!
I wake up each morning with my cup of coffee and smoothie and indulge most nights with a glass of red wine.
My husband is my best friend and we spend hours talking and dreaming together.
So really~ in the grand scheme of things~ I couldn't even imagine what to ask for.
BUT if anyone feels generous; I am still hoping for a couple of chickens :)
My only hope is to end this birthday with homemade pizza, cookies, and some family cuddle time on the couch (and maybe a few episodes of Gilmore Girls thrown in there somewhere during pizza and cookies!)

Sandwich Bread

I love making bread. Really anything requiring a dough; tortillas, pie crusts, tart shells, rolls, bagels...you get the idea.
One recipe I haven't been able to really tackle has been just an ordinary sandwich bread loaf. I have tried a couple of recipes in the past 5 years or so without much luck. I wasn't finding the consistency or the "look" of an average American sandwich bread I had hoped for.
Last week my wonderful hubby who always picks me up cookbooks at the library (without me asking :) found this one. Usually I turn up my nose to huge compilation cookbooks. I have a couple in my stash here at home (i.e Betty Crocker, Taste of Home) but there are some out there that really don't have very good recipes. Anyhow, back to this one.
It is from the editors of Cooks Illustrated magazine (which I LOVE!) Lots of scientific explanations behind each recipe and their test kitchens try each recipe like a bazillion times. They will tell the pros and cons of the various methods they used and what recipe they finally end up with. Both Mike and I have been pouring over this cookbook!! It is so interesting to read. He has been equally as enthralled with it as I have.
So I stumbled on their recipe for the "American Sandwich Loaf" and just had to try it. It was fairly easy and had a few tricks such as rolling out the dough into a square and then jelly rolling it before putting it in the pan. Also, adding a pan of hot water to the oven while the bread is baking to "steam" bake it.
The end product is just what I was looking for. It is a bread that even my kids want sandwiches on. I made grilled cheese yesterday that was crazy good!


This weekend we packed up early Saturday morning and headed out on a drive to Shaker Village. A winding 45 minute drive is all it takes to get to this little gem from our home. Martha Stewart has called Shaker Village her favorite place to visit in the US. There are only 2 remaining Shaker villages in the world. One in Maine and one here in Kentucky.
We have lived here for nearly 5 years and I can't believe we haven't taken time to go until now. Well...for one, it has an admission charge to go into the buildings and we are fairly anti-admission charges most of the time. But what we hadn't realized is that you can still walk the streets of the village and take in all of its serenity and beauty for free! It is the buildings you pay to go in to. I still really want Mike to take me on a date there someday. They have a hotel and a restaurant and I would love to go sans kids to listen to the oral history that the tour guides share and to take it in for all of its quietness and calmness.

Anyhow, we went there to go fishing in the village pond. The parks and recreation dept. were offering a free fishing day so needless to say, we weren't the only ones out there. Nonetheless, we found a gorgeous shade tree that we sat under for the day while the boys fished, climbed trees, watched ducks, and read cookbooks with me.
Mike unfortunately was stuck adding bait (worms) to the hooks quite often as the boys would loose theirs in the pond or a fish would take a nibble.

Besides the slight craziness that comes with taking a 6 year old boy and a 2 year old boy anywhere, we had a great day. Canaan and Ezra learned how to play marbles and Canaan made his own rope.

We are now planning to make trips there often~especially since it is free family fun.

Utilizing my resources

I have never been able to stick to a chore chart for the kids. It just is SO hard for me to do. With that said, they definitely do chores and help pitch in around the house. Since Canaan was quite young we have been "teaching him to fish" not just "catching fish" for him. He has learned to cook along side me, clean up after himself, pitch in on family chores and all that good stuff that makes little boys turn into independent men someday. Ezra is just now coming along in that process too and it gives him such a sense of achievement to help where he can.
(Although I will now add this: Today when we arrived at the tennis court I asked Ezra to carry a few things. He said "oh mommy, I don't think I can; my back hurts." I have a pinched nerve right now and can't lift him and so I guess he's picked up on the "my back hurts" phrases....love that!)

Anyhow, on Sunday morning I had a flurry of things to do. Clean the house for a group of people coming over that afternoon, dinner to start in the crock pot because I was going to be at a meeting from 4-6, trying to remember what I needed to take to church, getting dressed, etc...

I walked into the kitchen after getting dressed and found Canaan opening cans of beans, tomatoes, and sauce for the chili. He had already finished nearly all of it when I came in! (without being asked, I might add!)

Ezra was helping out his daddy do a few dishes and I stood there and realized 1. how blessed I am 2. that all the hard work in teaching our children to help out and be a part of this family team has really started to pay off!

He felt such a sense of accomplishment opening all of the cans and making the chili himself...oh yeah, he had browned the meat too!

We all scurried off to church and I was happy to have made it off to church on time. On time for a 10:30am service...but wait, Mike remembered on the way that church started at 10am not 10:30am. Seriously? Can you believe I am on staff there and had somehow thought it started at 10:30? Oh well...another day in the life!

Fair Entry

I am still plugging along on my entries for the Kentucky State Fair in August. I am not going to make nearly as much as I had hoped to enter, but thats ok. Part of the fun is dreaming up what I want to make and knowing that someday down the road I'll get to it.
Here is one entry I finished up this morning. Each item I am making is something I will use here in our house after the fair is over. This little guy is for the "small quilt" division which can be no larger than 17 inches by 17 inches. Mine measures about 16 by 16.

After the fair I'll frame it for our house. Its quite an odd little quilt...just the way I wanted it. But who knows what the judges are looking for. Do they want a more classic representation of quilting? Who knows! I'll just make what speaks to me and is representative of our home and we'll see how it all pans out.
Last year I won 3rd place for my chocolate cake. The competition was stiff! Over 50 cakes just in the chocolate cake division! This year I am going to try to go for first :)

Teachers Gifts

Its a busy night around here. Canaan and I have been working hard to finish up gifts for his end-of-the-year gifts for teachers. He has made them marshmallows from his company and I have made his homeroom teachers some little sewn gifts.
Canaan is such a thoughtful little guy. He has been so detailed about the gifts and making sure that each teacher (and his principle) get a gift. He has made out a list so he can take it to school with him tomorrow. He asked if he could write a letter to his teachers as well in which he wrote "thank you for teaching me in kindergarten".
They are almost all assembled. Canaan is now in bed and Mike is off at a meeting for work. I can't figure out how to assemble these stupid white boxes from Michaels so those will have to wait for Mike to get home.
Its now 8:18pm and I think I'll make a smoothie for dinner and watch some TV until Mike gets home.
Goodnight from the Smith homestead.

Dear Canaan

Dear Canaan,
You are an official kindergarten graduate today! My how this year has flown! It seems like just last week I was blogging about your first day of school. The week leading up to your first day I teared up daily thinking about you growing up and heading off into the big world. Just thinking about you leaving the protection of my wing for 7 hours a day sent me into minor panic attacks. And on the night before your first day I cried huge crocodile tears while your daddy encouraged me that you would be ok.
That first day you walked off to school with your dad and I stood on the porch watching you leave. You got almost to the next yard over when you turned around and said "I love you mommy". That moment was so sweet and will be etched in my memory for life.
This has been a great year for you. I truly couldn't have imagined how quickly you would learn and grow. You went to school knowing only letters, not yet reading words. Last week your teachers sent home a letter saying you are now reading on a
4th grade level! You love to read and do it with such enthusiasm and excitement.
When you went to kindergarten you knew 1+1=2. Now you are literally blowing us away with your math skills. You can do multiplication in your head and you endlessly ask us for math questions while driving in the car. While most kids are watching Sponge Bob, one of your favorite shows is NOVA on PBS.
But above the academic skills, I am even more proud of the young man you are becoming. Each of your teachers now gets to see what we have always seen. A respectful, helpful, honest, upbeat, thoughtful, hardworking boy. You are wise beyond your years, Canaan.
Last week we sat at a restaurant that was showing some cartoons on a nearby TV. The cartoons weren't very "kid friendly" but I didn't say anything. Before our meals even arrived you asked if you could switch seats with Daddy so you didn't have to watch the show. You said it didn't look like something you needed to watch. I was so proud that you made that decision for yourself.
You even started a company this year! "The Marshmallows Company" was officially started in March after your dreaming and planning for 2 years.
My heart overflows with love for you. This year has been an incredible year for you. You have learned lessons in friendship with the boys in your class and you have learned to discipline yourself to do homework when it first is assigned (even though you have a week to finish it). You continually amaze us.
Next year will be a great year as well. You have an amazing chance to attend a prestigious private school here in town. The school is giving you a grant to attend which is an enormous blessing God has given.
We are excited to see you as excited as you are to go there. You will have an educational opportunity that many kids do not have. I know you will do your best and enjoy your time there as much as you enjoy each day to the fullest already.
We love you beyond words. Happy Graduation Day!

Homemade Pasta

I finally got the guts to pull out my "new" (new in box from the thrift store) pasta maker. I bought it a month or so ago but have been nervous about actually tackling my first batch of fresh pasta.
Canaan has been begging for spaghetti and meatballs for the past couple of weeks so this morning after he headed to school I started simmering some homemade marinara and mixed up our favorite meatball recipe.
I had every intention of using store bought whole wheat pasta but around 4:00 today I figured that every other aspect of the meal was from scratch~ so should the pasta.
I have endless recipes for pasta dough and couldn't figure out which one to use. Finally I settled on Gourmet magazines recipe which literally is 1 1/2 cups of flour and 3 eggs...thats it. It was super easy and the dough had great texture. I used whole wheat flour.
Ezra and Mike helped out and after a few mishaps (learning how to use my machine properly), we got beautiful ribbons of fettuccine.
After 3 minutes of boiling, the pasta was done. And oh how yummy it was! I couldn't believe how EASY, FAST, and YUMMY the pasta was. Everyone loved it and it was incredibly healthy and tasty.
Does anyone know how to clean the pasta machine properly? It came in a box but the instruction guide was missing. I have no clue how to clean it and I don't want to use soap and water without knowing if I should or not.