Saturday, July 30, 2011

Funky Mushrooms

It rained all week right after we got back from Ohio. The combination of lower temperatures and extra moisture made the mushrooms all over our favorite park grow like crazy! By the next week, they were everywhere: in the woods, in the fields, in the brush; and were all shapes, sizes and colors. Here are some of the most interesting ones we saw on our daily disc golf excursions.

This enormous (for comparison, the blue disc golf disc next to it is about 8 inches across) red and orange mushroom was growing on the edge of the woods along the path from hole F to 14. First time I'd ever seen a red mushroom!
July 17

Two days later, we spotted more red mushrooms. These were smaller and looked like something out of a Super Mario Brothers video game!
July 19

It started getting a little drier out but the interesting mushrooms kept coming. This one was more orange than the photo shows. I think it might be a chicken mushroom. It was pretty big, about the size of my fist. 
July 20

These delicate mushrooms are really hard to capture on film. They're almost thin enough to be transparent and their centers are a sunny yellow. Even the stems are thin and dainty, even though the top is about 2 1/2 inches across. 
July 22

The little bubble-looking mushrooms, on left, caught our eye on July 28. The next day we were surprised to see how much they had grown, on right, and how different they looked just 24 hours later.

Honestly I don't know if this last one is even a mushroom but it was definitely interesting seeing it growing up out of the mulchy-forest-floor. It was tall, maybe 3 1/2 or 4 inches high, and as colorful as it looks. At first I thought it was alive - it sorts of looks like a worm!
July 29

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

South River Vineyard

We made our first visit to South River Vineyard during our July trip to Ohio. I had heard of it but didn't realize it was so close by. We had a great time here - really enjoyed the setting and the wine as well. The tasting room is in an old church that was relocated from Shalersville:

Behind the church there are two pavilions. Here's the view from the first larger, fancier one of the second "rustic" one.

A glass of wine in the sunshine... my favorite was the Temptation, a blush that was peachy-pink in color.

... but don't take the glass home with you (unless you pay for it)!

The weather could not have been more gorgeous - it was early evening and in the mid-70s. They don't serve food but you can bring your own picnic. 

The owner lit a fire later in the rustic pavilion. Wouldn't this be fun in the fall? It was lovely even in the summer. And I love the arts and crafts light fixtures (upper right corner).

South River Vineyard
6062 South River Rd.
Geneva, OH 44041

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Our New Jeep

Hubs replaced his 1999 Taurus with a shiny new 2011 Jeep Wrangler! It has a hard top and a soft top and even though it was 95 degrees out we took the top off last night and drove around the neighborhood. What a fun car!

 with the top off!

 bike rack

the top comes off in 3 parts, 2 over front seats, one for the whole back

the view from the backseat while we're cruising the neighborhood

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Happy third Twitter-versary to me!
I joined twitter on 13 July 2008 - ? #wdyjt

I'm grateful to Twitter for the things I've learned, the laughter it's brought me, and the many many friends I've found... all in 140 characters or less!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

More Books to Read

The Story of Charlotte’s Web: E.B. White’s Eccentric Life in Nature and the Birth of an American Classic by Michael Sims, which I read about in a Smithsonian Magazine web article: How EB White Wove Charlotte's Web
The Story of Charlotte's Web: E. B. White's Eccentric Life in Nature and the Birth of an American Classic

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, recommended to me by both Erin and Dawn in the space of less than 24 hours! 
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: A Novel

Talking to Girls about Duran Duran: One Young Man's Quest for True Love and a Cooler Haircut by Rob Sheffield, recommended by my hs bff, Kendra. Read her review here.

Monday, July 11, 2011

More Cute AXO Stationery

I ordered a stack of these cards and when I send them I'm often asked where they came from because they are so cute!! Thanks to Greek Chick Gifts for creating such great stationery (which is available for most of our Panhellenic friends as well FYI). See/purchase them all on the Alpha Chi Omega stationery page
Follow up to Cute AXO Stationery
See also my AXO lyre return address stamp

Disclaimer: I received no gifts and paid retail for the cards.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Penguin Love

Saw these and couldn't resist buying a couple for two of my penguin-loving friends.
This cute little guy unzips to become a tote bag!

How fun is that? Made by Stephen Joseph

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Summer Solstice Strawberry Cobbler

T and I made Strawberry Cobbler to celebrate the Summer Solstice. Here's the recipe we used:

Strawberry Cobbler - adapted from How to Eat a Cupcake - serves 4

Strawberry Filling
1/2 cups sugar (cut this way back if the berries are sweet, 1 T sugar per 1 cup berries is probably enough!)
2 tsp cornstarch
2 tsp water
1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 cups strawberries, washed and hulled
1 tsp unsalted butter, softened

Biscuit Topping
3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp shortening
1/4 cup cold milk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large cookie sheet with foil. Butter (optional) 4 deep ramekins and place on the cookie sheet.

First, prepare the strawberry filling. In a large nonreactive saucepan stir together the sugar and cornstarch. Stir in the water and lemon juice. Stir in the strawberries.

Cook over medium heat, stirring often until thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Pour filling into ramekins.

Prepare the biscuit topping. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Cut in the shortening. Using a wooden spoon, gently stir in the milk, just until the dough cleans the bowl.

Drop in small portions on top of each cobbler.

Bake for 25 minutes.
delicious filling cooking in the pot... we ate it all before we had a chance to photograph the final product!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Different ways of knowing

Jennifer sent me the link to this talk - I read Daniel Tammet's book Born on a Blue Day (Dawn lent it to me) but had never seen him speak before. Interesting even if you don't care about autism. As a side note, my Mom does math the same way he does!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Muffins

We ended up with a three pound tub of sour cream (seriously, it was enormous!!) after I hosted my co-workers for a potluck Mexican fiesta. We used two cups in the topping for a peanut butter cup cheesecake for our babysitter for her 16th birthday and still had a lot left so I googled sour cream muffin and came across this great recipe.We had just tried a new muffin recipe earlier that week (one that was meant to be the "best ever") so this one is a good contrast to that one. T took one bite and said, "Amazing!" 

Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Muffins
Servings: 12 muffins

1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 cup sour cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Line one cupcake pan with liners, set aside.
3. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
4. In another large bowl, combine the egg, sour cream, melted butter, and vanilla extract, mixing well.
5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined.
6. Gently add in the chocolate chips until thoroughly combined.
7. Evenly divide the batter among the prepared cupcake liners (I use a large ice cream scoop for this) so that the liners are about 3/4-full.
8. Bake until a tester inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean, about 14-18 minutes.
(from Taste of Home via The Curvy Carrot

Raspberry Peach Oatmeal Muffins

From Simple Bites.One-Bowl Oatmeal Muffins: Basic Recipe
Makes 12 medium muffins
1 cup milk*
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 cup rolled oats (not quick oats)
1 large egg, at room temperature
¼ cup dark brown sugar
½ cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly ground
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, freshly ground
add-ins of your choosing (see suggestions)

One-Bowl Oatmeal Muffins: Flavor Combinations
1 cup Raspberries with ½ cup Dark Chocolate, chunked or chips
¾ cup Golden Raisins with ¾ cup grated Carrot
we used 1/2 cup raspberries and 1/2 cup diced peach

Combine milk, vinegar and oats in a large bowl and let stand one hour.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a twelve-cup muffin tin and line with cupcake papers.

Crack the egg into the oat and milk mixture; add brown sugar and mix to combine. Stir in melted butter.

Sift remaining ingredients into the bowl: flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, & spices. Gently fold into batter, taking care not to over mix.

Sprinkle add-in and flavorings of your choice and combine muffin batter gently.

Use a large ice cream scoop or 1/3 cup measuring cup to scoop batter into muffin tins. Bake until light brown and tops spring back when gently touched, about 10-12 minutes. Note: Muffins will take slightly longer to bake if you are adding fresh fruit such as blueberries or rhubarb.

Remove from oven and cool in tins. To remove, run a sharp knife around the edges and pop muffins out. Enjoy!

*You may also substitute 1 cup buttermilk, and then omit the vinegar from the recipe.

I used 1 cup of buttermilk rather than milk with vinegar, and cut the spices back a little. I feel like the recipe has too much butter - next time I make this I will cut it back by a quarter and see how they turn out. The finished muffin is moist and dense and not sweet. We definitely enjoyed the texture from the oatmeal.

Friday, July 1, 2011

6th Grade Reading

T has to pick one of these books for his rising 6th grader summer reading:

Rules by Cynthia Lord

RulesFrom School Library Journal synopsis: Grade 4-7-Twelve-year-old Catherine has conflicting feelings about her younger brother, David, who is autistic. While she loves him, she is also embarrassed by his behavior and feels neglected by their parents. In an effort to keep life on an even keel, Catherine creates rules for him (It's okay to hug Mom but not the clerk at the video store). Each chapter title is also a rule, and lots more are interspersed throughout the book. When Kristi moves in next door, Catherine hopes that the girl will become a friend, but is anxious about her reaction to David. Then Catherine meets and befriends Jason, a nonverbal paraplegic who uses a book of pictures to communicate, she begins to understand that normal is difficult, and perhaps unnecessary, to define. Rules of behavior are less important than acceptance of others. Catherine is an endearing narrator who tells her story with both humor and heartbreak. Her love for her brother is as real as are her frustrations with him. Lord has candidly captured the delicate dynamics in a family that revolves around a child's disability. Set in coastal Maine, this sensitive story is about being different, feeling different, and finding acceptance. A lovely, warm read, and a great discussion starter.-Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME

Wing Nut by M.J. Auch

Wing NutFrom Booklist via amazon: Gr. 4-7. Since his father died, 12-year-old Grady and his mom, Lila, have lived in a lot of dead-end places, none of them worth being called "home." But maybe Charlie Fernwald's Pennsylvania farm, where Lila has been hired to cook for the 85-year-old farmer, mechanic, and purple martin enthusiast, will be different. Maybe. But Grady makes a terrible mistake. Auch's story of the slowly developing friendship between a lonely boy and an elderly man whose passion for birds has sustained him through the death of his wife is engaging, though a tad predictable. What will attract readers like martins to a gourd nest is the author's careful integration of bird lore and the unusual challenges of creating and maintaining a purple martin colony. A good book for reluctant boy readers. Michael Cart

Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of LifeFrom School Library Journal Grade 5-7–An elaborately locked wooden box requiring four separate but missing keys holds the treasure in this modern-day quest. Jeremy's father lived his life preparing for an early death, as foretold by a fortune-teller. He did, in fact, die when Jeremy was eight, but a package from him containing the locked box arrives one month before Jeremy's 13th birthday, the day on which the box is to be opened. With his friend Lizzy, Jeremy searches for the keys while contemplating the words engraved on the box, The Meaning of Life: For Jeremy Fink. 13th Birthday. The search for the keys takes the friends around and about New York City, where they meet a large and increasingly convenient range of supporting characters, from members of a spiritualist congregation to a prominent astronomer, all of whom point them toward their own takes on the meaning of life. Mystery and adventure fans will be pulled in by the locked box, and, as a bonus, will get to know quirky, scientific Jeremy and impulsive Lizzy. Some readers might become impatient as the metaphysical quest lengthens, but those who stick with the story will find a warm picture of parental love and wisdom and of a boy growing into his own understanding and acceptance of life.–Faith Brautigam, Gail Borden Public Library, Elgin, IL

Gabriel's Horses by Alison Hart
Gabriel's Horses (Racing to Freedom) (Racing to Freedom Trilogy) From School Library Journal (via Grade 5–8—A story set in Kentucky horse country during the Civil War. Gabriel, 12, is a slave but dreams of becoming a famous jockey. His father, a free man married to a slave, is a trainer for Master Giles's stable of Thoroughbreds. When the man enlists in the Union Army to earn the money to buy his wife's freedom, Gabriel must adjust to a cruel new trainer. Although the war's impact in Kentucky is less dire than in other Southern states, marauding bands of Confederate raiders terrorize residents, seeking horses, food, and anything else they can steal. One Arm Dan's bunch raids Master Giles's farm, not for food, but for the horses that Gabriel is determined to protect. Outnumbered, his only choice is to take eight of the animals and run. Master Giles, a kind man, rewards the boy's cunning and bravery by granting him his freedom and a paid job as his top jockey. Characters talk about the many faces of freedom, from actual emancipation, to being allowed to learn reading and writing, to realizing the dream of working at what you love. More subtle signs of liberation are seen in the black freemen who call Giles "Mister" and the slaves who address him as "Master." The author grounds this fast-paced tale in historical fact by providing a nonfiction epilogue. Readers will find this wonderful blend of history and horses appealing.—Ann Robinson, Moultonborough Academy Library.

Every Soul A Star by Wendy Mass
Every Soul A Star From Booklist: Three young teens witness a total solar eclipse and are changed forever in this novel, told in alternating narratives, that weaves exciting astronomy facts into the teens’ personal lives. Ally, 13, is fascinated by the scientific event, as are 1,000 other people from all over the world who come to view the Great Eclipse at her family’s wilderness site. Glamorous teen Bree has an opposite view and is appalled that her parents, both physics scholars, want to move to the site: how can she manage without the mall? Then there is Jack, who loves art and science fiction but is a failure at science and is brought to the site by his teacher. The anticipation building up to the great event brings thrilling changes in all three young lives. Bree’s hilarious account of her experience as a glamour queen in the wilderness is right-on, but she moves beyond total stereotype and allows herself to release her inner geek, at least for a while, while Ally and Jack bond and also break their rigid character roles. The contemporary voices ring true, and readers will want to read more about the science surrounding eclipses. Grades 5-8. --Hazel Rochman

Which would you choose? We already own Rules (it was a Sunshine State Young Readers Award book). Of the others, only Wendy Mass' titles are available for the kindle.
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