Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Cardinals

I can't tell you how happy I was when I saw a mama cardinal (affectionately named Lucy) making a nest in our bush. We watched her drag twigs into the bush - about eight feet off of the ground. She began sitting on her nest at the end of April, only ever leaving to visit the birdfeeder with Charlie (the red male). He would feed her beak-to-beak with sunflower seeds, and then she would happily chirp her way back into the bush.


This was the best shot I could get of her in the nest - can you spy her bright orange beak? :)


I climbed up on a ladder to take a peek at the speckled eggs! There were four! But if you look closely, one looks rather tiny - and that one never hatched.


The sweetest little babies - only a couple of days old!


At five days-old, there were two precious, slightly-feathered babies in the nest. No sign of what happened to the third! :(


Seven days-old, and my heart broke quite a bit to find only one baby left. We spotted the other baby to the right of the nest. There had been a late spring frost, and I wonder if that caused him to pass away. The boys named the last surviving baby, Woodstock "Woody". At this point, Woody began to chirp loudly enough when he was fed that we could hear him from the house with our window open. It was so cute!


At ten days-old, Woodstock had plenty of feathers, and fledged the nest shortly after this photo was taken! I couldn't snap a photo quickly enough, but he was opening his beak for me to feed him, and I melted.



I had the boys watercolor Lucy and Charlie, and their paintings turned out adorable! We took the nest down to get a close look at it. And we also opened up the last tiny egg - which only contained liquid and yolk, and now we're keeping it as a tiny souvenir in the nest.

We did not ever spot Woodstock again, but hopefully he/or she went on to a be a healthy juvenile bird. We do think that Charlie and Lucy began a second nest in another bush in our yard. Unfortunately, that bush is so tall that I can't get a look at it, so I don't know how that's going. We'll know if we hear babies next week! :)


Monday, April 27, 2020

Chocolate muffins with cream cheese filling


I got this recipe from my friend Sue (go read her blog - you'll love it!) She had made these muffins for her husband Denny's 60th birthday a few years back, and they were so good that I had to ask her for the details! They're like a chocolate cupcake with (exceptional!) frosting on the inside, so you can eat them for breakfast. :)

You'll need:

2/3 cup cocoa
2 cups sugar
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick butter, melted
1 Tablespoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons vinegar
2 cups cold water

And for the filling:


1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup chocolate chips



Directions:

Combine the cocoa, 2 cups sugar, flour, salt, and baking soda. Carefully add in the melted butter, vanilla, vinegar, and cold water. The mix will seem soupy when you add the water, but be patient, keep stirring, and it will be fine.

Fill the muffin tin, each one about 2/3 full.

In a separate bowl, mix the cream cheese, 1/3 c sugar, egg, and chocolate chips.

Drop a small spoonful of filling into the middle of each muffin.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.



Happy eating!


Monday, April 20, 2020

Every bit of sunshine


Easter has come and gone, but the Easter candy is still plentiful around our house :) Last Sunday was definitely a day to remember, despite being home all day. Honestly, as long as the boys have their toys and each other, they don't feel like they're missing out on anything. I guess that's the simple, homeschool life! 


Rewinding back to Good Friday, we dyed our eggs, and had only one spill. That's a win!


We used brown eggs, which gave us these pretty jewel tones.


August didn't remember doing this last year, so it was a brand new thing for him! :)



Later in the day, our friends Sean and Julie dropped off sweet Easter packages for the kids, full of pastel M&Ms and bunny straws and all good things! :)


Easter morning, the kids woke up to fun baskets! On eBay, I found Junia a little white bunny that matches the boys' bunnies/lamb that they love to see every year, so I was really happy about that!


I bought Junia's pink bunny basket three years ago - wishful thinking, I guess! ;)  She was so darling in her first Easter dress!


Steve played a couple of songs for church on Facebook Live, and we listened to our pastor's message. The boys watercolor painted over three washi tape crosses, then we pulled the tape off to reveal white crosses.


I encouraged them, "Use bright sunrise colors like pink and orange!" August painted his all blue :)



Peek!


For Easter dinner, we did eat ham, but we kept it easy with ham and cheese sandwiches on Hawaiian rolls. The highlight was dessert - this lemon pie! Recipe here.


After dinner, we had a rainy egg hunt in the backyard. This really was the icing on the cake for the day. The boys loved it!


Happy to have found so much chocolate! 

My mom and Don social-distanced in our front yard to exchange gifts and take our family photo. 


The sun was not even out, but it was apparently too bright for 2/4 of them. 😆


Here are a few more photos of life lately:


Whenever I go out to fill the birdfeeder, I find this sweet girl waiting for me at the door.


Ephraim helping Daddy pull some dandelions!


The two-week progress of our 2020 garden - it's going well so far!




One warm night, I put Junia down in the grass for the first time. She loved it, and kept trying to put grass and wild violets in her mouth.



Junia's 11 months-old, and her birthday is coming up fast! She is a peanut at 16 pounds, only now fitting into her 9 month clothes. She waves and smiles all the time, even to people on Zoom. 😊 She stands up and lets go, and then giggles at us because she's so proud of herself. 



"Every meal, every pleasure, every bit of sunshine, every night's sleep, every moment of health and safety, and everything else that sustains and enriches life is a divine gift."
J.I. Packer 


Everything we have was given to us by a good God. I'm asking myself,
how can I be more grateful today? ☀️


Lemon pie



I made this recipe on Easter, and it was so delicious that I need to share it! I intended on using the recipe from Joanna Gaines' Magnolia Table, but when I started baking, I realized it called for 3 cups of sweetened condensed milk, and I just had one 14-ounce can. To improvise, I referenced my key lime pie recipe, which only uses one can, and it turned out perfectly. It's the best spring dessert!

You'll need:

1  1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (from about 12 sheets or 24 squares)
6 Tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
3 Tablespoons sugar

1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice (from about 4 lemons)
pinch of sea salt

1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Spray the 9-inch pie dish with non-stick spray, or butter the dish. 

In a large bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and 3 T sugar. Press the mixture onto the bottom and the sides of the pie dish. Bake about 8 minutes, until firm. Let cool a bit.

In a stand mixer, with the paddle attachment, beat the condensed milk, egg yolks, lemon juice, and sea salt. If you don't have a stand mixer, you can use a handheld mixer or even just whisk them together well. Pour the mixture into the crust. Bake it until the center is set, but still quivers, about 12-15 minutes.

Let it cool on a rack for 30 minutes, and then put it in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

When you're ready to serve the pie, make the whipped cream topping by beating the heavy cream, 2 T sugar, and vanilla in the stand mixer, or with a handheld mixer. It's ready when it's fluffy and the cream holds soft, billowing peaks (only 1-2 minutes). 

Put the whipped cream on the pie, and garnish with lemon slices.

Easy! Hope you love it like we do.




Thursday, April 9, 2020

Quarantine life


I've almost completely lost awareness of days of the week, and I don't know how many weeks we've been in official quarantine. I do know it's been about a month since everything was normal, and like everyone, I wonder how much longer this will go on. But we take it one day at a time.

For us, it looks like:

Steve teaching classes from his computer
in his new office (our bedroom),

the boys playing hard with each other and building Lego in the garage,

the six of us going outside for a walk every day,

Zoom meetings with church, family, and friends,

all the usual cleaning and chores,
plus some lawn-mowing, weeding, and bush-pruning,

keeping the baby entertained, fed, and happy,

online window-shopping at Target,

dreaming about doing house updates,
but still somehow not finding the time to do them,

baking lots of banana bread and cookies,

and writing cards to special people.



We're trying our best to implement some quiet time with afternoon reading in the living room or in their bedrooms.



Steve decided to shave his beard, and Junia almost didn't recognize him! She kept scanning his face up and down and touching his mouth. :)



Our church is in a series for Lent, "cross = love", and Steve and I got t-shirts to share the message.


Nolan decided to make a shirt for himself!



We aren't going to Trader Joe's now that we're sheltering-in-place because it's a little bit of a trek, so I was glad to find ranunculus on our last stop there.

Auggie says to me, "Mommy, when I grow up, I going marry you with flowers from Trader Joe's."
 YES!


We watercolor-painted paper plates and taped them up on the wall to make a flower garden!



That guy from High School Musical and me. ;)

Do you know, his students still tell him that every semester?


Getting a haircut! Thankfully, we all get our hair trimmed at home already.



The magnolia trees are in full bloom - so beautiful! 



I love these photos that Steve snapped of Junia and me the other day!


Checking out the chalk message on our walk.


Instant mood lifter. 🍪✌🏼


Happy flamingo girl! 






If you missed my post, I shared the recipe for these Cadbury egg blondies here.


Thanks Wanda for this beautiful blanket!


If we time it just right at dinnertime, and recline her seat a bit, Junia will take a second nap in her stroller.


Those two bottom teeth! 🥰



Last Friday, we planted the seeds for our summer 2020 garden! We chose cherry tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, sweet peppers, green beans, pumpkins, and sugar snap peas.


We dug out the double stroller for the first time, and these two LOVED sitting next to each other and touching each other on the walk. :)


This is the verse I've been meditating on this week:

"You will keep
in perfect peace
all who trust in you,
all whose thoughts
are fixed on you!"
Isaiah 26:3 ✌🏼


We spotted the first open tulips!


Steve and I were outside pulling weeds, and the boys came out and asked if they could help. We directed them towards an unused box of chalk instead, which they were really excited about. I went inside to feed a waking Junia. When I came back, in no time at all, Ephraim had drawn this cast of characters: Pigeon, Elephant & Piggie, all straight out of his head. Every day, he makes some little piece of art that wows me. 🎨

xo
Rachel

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