Friday, August 31, 2012


Last weekend, we went to Wagfest, which is a big festival, all for dogs, here in Central Ohio.  There was a dog swimming area and park, shows, vendors & breeds of every kind.  I thought I'd share a few pics!

Ranger met a couple of other Rhodesian Ridgebacks at the fest:

It was a really hot day, and Ranger absolutely loved the ice area they had set up for the dogs to romp in.  We ended up visiting twice so he could play and cool off:

We watched the dock jumping in the afternoon - some dogs couldn't wait to make the jump, others needed a little coaxing:

And here's a shot of a dragonfly, because I can never resist taking a dragonfly picture:

Ranger had a blast at Wagfest, but towards the end he was so tired, he was going under food carts & plopping down.  It was a big day for our big dog!


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Camping at Salt Fork State Park

Last week, the Bach family went on a little camping adventure at Salt Fork State Park in Ohio.  We've never taken the kids camping before, but we thought they would enjoy it.  DH bought a little pop-up trailer (which he promptly dubbed The Mobile HQ) and we headed out for a few days of hiking, swimming & s'mores-ing.  Here are a few shots from our trip.

The Bachsters all buried each other in the sand on the beach: 

Our 7-year-old found the coolest caterpillar right by our campsite:

Silver lining:

DH planned and cooked all our meals - it was a nice break for me:

One morning we woke up to beautiful, foggy campgrounds:

Waiting patiently at the marina:

We rented a pontoon boat for a couple of hours - everyone had so much fun exploring the lake:

Ranger's ears flapping in the breeze:

We let the kids swim off the boat - a daring rescue in progress:

We enjoyed a big campfire every evening:

Here's a shot of our pop-up......I mean, Mobile HQ:

Our last day at the park, we found our own little "secret beach" - we were the only ones there, so we let Ranger run around & go wild.  Our 7-year-old amassed quite a collection of shells:

One of everyone's favorite part of the trip was watching Ranger go from timid around the water to all-out goofy, jumping, exuberant water-dog:

We hiked....we swam....we heard owls and coyotes at night.....we saw a million stars......we couldn't get enough s'mores.....we saw lots of deer and butterflies........we already want to go back.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Book Nook - Camp Out!

Camp Out! The Ultimate Kids' Guide by Lynn Brunelle:

Guess what we did last week?  Went camping at Salt Fork State Park, Ohio's largest state park!  We had so much fun - a post with pictures is coming soon, I promise!

I took this book with us on our camping adventure, and I'm so glad I did.  There are lots of camping-related tidbits of information throughout the book.  On the cover are the following bullet-points:

-pitch a tent
-tie knots
-explore nature
-get crafty out there
-use a compass
-cook up s'mores
-read the weather
-build a campfire

The book has all of these things, plus pages on topics like identifying constellations, popular campfire songs, things you see in a tide pool and games to play after a busy day of hiking and swimming. 

Our oldest was fascinated by the chapter on animal tracks and scat.  She also loved reading the ghost stories aloud to her younger siblings, causing them a couple of nights of scary dreams before we left on our trip.  We made sure to tell her no spooky stories when we're out in the woods!

If you & your family go camping - get this book.  But make sure you bring it with you because there are many, many interesting and useful items in it that are fun to read about while you're experiencing it.  If nothing else, it's a fun read while you're kicking back & eating s'mores.


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Ice Cream Sundays - {peach}

If I were at a birthday party, and we were having cake and ice cream, and the ice cream flavor was peach, I would probably pass on the ice cream and ask for a second piece of cake instead.  Peach ice cream just doesn't do anything for me.  I remember one time in the recent past, for some reason we had some store-bought peach ice cream in our freezer, and it stayed there for months.  In this family, that's an unusual thing, indeed.

So, I set out to make peach ice cream knowing that it wasn't the most popular flavor around here.  But peaches are in season, and we picked up a bunch from a local farm.  Why not give it a try?

I used the recipe from The Craft of Baking by Karen DeMasco, a cookbook that I'm really loving right now.  However, I used the ice cream making technique of The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz - my favorite ice cream book.  Lebovitz recommends taking the skins off the peaches and then pureeing the peaches in a blender or food processor, which is exactly what I did.  The tiny pieces of peach weren't icy at all in the ice cream, thanks to this advice.

It was a good peach ice cream, but I'm afraid it didn't change my mind.  I might make this again for someone who loves peach ice cream, especially for their birthday.  And it definitely wouldn't stay in the freezer for months, like that store-bought kind we once had.  If you love peach ice cream, this is a great recipe (well, hybrid recipe).  If you're not a peach-ice-cream-person, I highly recommend caramel - for which I'd skip the birthday cake altogether and just ask for seconds (and maybe thirds).


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Feeding the ducks and geese

The other day, the Bachsters and I went to a local pond to feed the ducks and geese.  It's so much fun to do, because they are totally fearless of people - they will come right up to you, sometimes even snatching a piece of bread from your hand or stepping on your foot (which feels really funny).  I thought I'd share a few pics of our time at the pond:

And after a little morning snack, it's time for a nice swim in the pond (for the ducks and geese, not us):


Monday, August 20, 2012

Book Nook - Falling In

Falling In by Frances O'Roark Dowell:

Sometimes, I choose a book because I've heard a lot of buzz about it, or it was recommended to me, or I find it while researching another book.  Or maybe it's a classic that I've always meant to read.  But then there are times when prominent shelf placement at the library and a cute cover are all it takes to nab my interest.  Such is the case with Falling In.

As the Bachsters and I started reading the book, you can't help but "fall in" to the story, just as the protagonist, Isabelle, falls into an alternate world.  One minute she's helping a classmate who has injured her arm, the next minute, she finds herself in an unfamiliar basement, in a world without electricity, but one that has a witch.  And during different times of the year, the children from 5 neighboring villages go camp in the woods, believing that this will keep them safe from the child-eating witch.

Isabelle is quickly ejected from the initial unfamiliar basement, and sent to one of these camps in the woods.  But on her way to camp, she decides that it might be more fun to actually meet the witch, so she heads in the opposite direction.  Along the way, she makes a new friend and discovers things about the witch that will change the lives of the villagers - and her own - for the better.

This story unfolds in a nice way, and gives the reader the "reader-tingles" when a new element is added to the layers.  Grown ups will see some of the plot direction ahead of time, but some of the story was a surprise to me.  I think this book has the intention of older readers reading it to themselves, but it also made a nice read-aloud with the Bachsters.  And a couple of telling signs that the book was a success: our oldest took it to her room several times after we finished, so that she could read ahead - and, I was also caught reading ahead!  So, it's a grown-up-and-kid-pleaser.

After recently finishing the How to Train Your Dragon series, I was hoping to find a book with a little less violence.  Falling In does have some violence, but certainly not as much as the Hiccup books.  I'm starting to wonder if there are any books for kids that don't have any violence in them?  Well, I know they are out there & we've read some, but it seems like most of them do contain some violence.

So, next time you're at the library, check out Falling In.  And take a look around the shelves for other books that catch your attention.  You might find yourself unexpectedly "falling in" to a good book you never even knew about.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Ice Cream Sundays - {fresh mint}

The internet is a funny place - you can find all sorts of great information, but there's also a lot of trash out there.  And sometimes, you might find something that's just flat-out incorrect, like I did when I came upon a review recently for a gelato book (yes, I read gelato book reviews in my free time) in which the reviewer slammed David Lebovitz for using corn syrup in his recipes.  My feathers were all in a bunch, let me tell you!  After some research of the recipes in the excellent The Perfect Scoop, out of 130 recipes for ice cream, sorbet/sherbet & granitas (yes, I counted) there are only 2 that use corn syrup or corn starch - both are in the sorbet/sherbet section.  2 out of 130.  What's really unbelievable is that there are ice cream cookbooks out there that use these ingredients in every recipe (no, I'm not naming any names).  I avoid these cookbooks at all costs & stick to my absolute favorite, The Perfect Scoop.

I think that gelato book reviewer should take a look at David Lebovitz's recipe for fresh mint ice cream, as a good example of what you'll find in the book.  It doesn't get any more natural than this: whole milk, sugar, heavy cream, salt, fresh mint leaves and egg yolks.  These ingredients mix up magically, to make a creamy, delicious, minty ice cream.  I added the stracciatella to the ice cream at the end of churning, which is simply melted chocolate added to the ice cream to make a thin swirl that breaks up into tiny chips as the chocolate cools.  I think it's a must with the fresh mint ice cream - it was just perfect!

The funny thing is that the base was actually a lovely mint green color as I stirred it.  Once I added the egg yolks, the color changed to what you see in the above picture, but I was excited to see the mint green there naturally.  No food coloring needed, because the green leaves provided their own color.

So, I think our gelato reviewer owes it to his or herself to take another look at The Perfect Scoop.  There are recipes here for some of the best all-natural ice cream you will ever taste - 128, to be exact.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Not Mother's Day, Not My Birthday

Monday was not Mother's Day, nor was it my birthday.  But for some unknown (yet wonderful) reason, our 7-year-old decided that she would make me breakfast-in-bed that morning.  She told me about her plans the night before, so I had plenty of time to talk to her about not using the stove....she wanted to make my usual, cheesy scrambled eggs.  Which would have been a big mess (not to mention safety hazard) without me helping her.

But she got creative, and put together a lovely continental breakfast.  On the tray were toast, butter and the last of our homemade strawberry jam on the side, a slice of cantaloupe, a whole peach, a glass of very cold water........and leftover salmon patties!  Dessert was chocolate chips mixed with mini marshmallows, topped with brown sugar.

It was the best breakfast ever.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Book Nook - The Craft of Baking

The Craft of Baking: Cakes, Cookies & Other Sweets by Karen DeMasco:

I always try to only recommend cookbooks that I've actually made something from - so many books have beautiful photography &/or a sleek look to them, but the recipes are the real knitty gritty.  If the recipes aren't any good, the cookbook is no good, no matter how pretty it is.

I've made several recipes from The Craft of Baking, so I'll start there.  The first recipe in the book, and one of my favorites, is the chocolate chip scones.  These are the best scones I've ever made.  They are light and buttery, and it's really hard to eat just I ate three!  I made these one morning that I was out of milk, but had lots of heavy cream.  It was almost like having a big chocolate chip cookie for breakfast!

I've also made the brown butter waffles - this time, I was out of milk but had lots of buttermilk in the fridge.  We just roll with it around here!  These were very tasty & easy to make, but I must admit, they are up against stiff competition - the waffles in Cookwise by Shirley Corriher have been our favorite for years.  But these are great if you want to whip up some last minute waffles - the ones in Cookwise need to be prepared the night before.

I also made the strawberry ice cream (which was so delicious - see post here) and the peach ice cream (to be featured in a future post - but it's yummy too).  With all that ice cream, I just had to put the extra egg whites to good use, so I whipped up the toasted coconut meringue, which I cannot stop eating - it's so good.  Finally, I made the yellow cake with milk chocolate buttercream for Little Dude's birthday, but I think I over-mixed the cake batter because it wasn't as light and fluffy as I was expecting.  I loved the buttercream frosting, but the Bachsters didn't care for it, so I probably won't make it again.  Overall, everything I made was very good & some of these recipes are going in my recipe folder to make time & time again.

Now, for the ones I want to try.  I'll start with the ice cream, because that's been my big focus this summer (really, what's summer without ice cream, I ask you).  I might try the banana malt ice cream - I have ripe bananas sitting there doing nothing at this very moment.  I'm dying to try the pumpkin ice cream, but I'll hold off until Fall, when I cannot resist any pumpkin-related treat.  The brown butter ice cream sounds intriguing, and the author has got me curious about her coconut sorbet.  The raspberry prosecco sorbet sounds like a very grown up treat, I must try it.  That's practically the entire ice cream section, and honestly, the entire cookbook is like this for me - I want to try it all!

Also on my must bake list: chocolate pudding and jasmine rice pudding.  My traditional recipe for pudding calls for cornstarch, which you don't need to use here.  Cornstarch isn't so good for you, so I'm definitely going to try these in place of my current recipe.  I'm going to make the crisp honey grahams the next time we have s'mores, because store-bought graham crackers have yucky ingredients like trans fats.  I've also been trying to find a good excuse to make the brown sugar cake - it sounds wonderful.  I might make it, excuse or not.  And finally, kudos to Ellen Silverman, who did all the photography (which is beautiful & inspiring throughout the book) - her shot of the chocolate cake doughnuts with chocolate crackle glaze has me running to the kitchen every time I see it.  I probably could try to resist this recipe otherwise, but her shot of the doughnuts has me dying for a bite every time I see the picture.

The Craft of Baking has so many great recipes in it - this would be a wonderful book to have on your shelf, to reach for over and over, whenever your sweet tooth starts to get demanding.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Ice Cream Sundays - {caramel}

Oh, caramel ice had me at hello!

This week, I made caramel ice cream from David Lebovitz's Ready For Dessert.  This cookbook has tons of great recipes in it, just about every one calling to me.  But of course, I started with the ice cream section and I couldn't have picked a better recipe to try.  This is the best caramel ice cream I have ever had, and I've tried a bunch - its rich caramel flavor perfectly balances sweet with a hint of salty.

Do yourself a big, big favor - make a double batch.  I finally got smart and am starting to do this.  Let's face it, 1 quart is just not enough for our ice cream loving family.  This recipe doubled easily.  Since I could see myself eating a bowl of caramel ice cream, oh I don't know, every day for the rest of my life, maybe I should invest in another ice cream canister.

The funny thing about caramel ice cream, at least from my experience, is that it plays with your taste buds a bit.  The first bite is no doubt the best, almost like sheet music, with the high notes and the low notes all up & down, yet the melody is beautiful.  I find that the more I eat caramel ice cream, the more subdued the musical notes and after a while, I can't really taste the caramel, just sweetness.  To remedy this, I highly recommend little doses throughout the day, so you can enjoy that first kick over and over.  Every day, for life, of course.

We've been going to the Farmer's Market and a local farm's store quite a lot recently to enjoy all the fresh fruits and vegetables grown locally.  And I was planning on sharing some of the ice cream I've made with all those local ingredients on today's blog.  But, after I made this caramel ice cream (and promptly devoured it), I just couldn't let another week or two go by without gushing about it.  Even now, looking at these shots of the caramel ice cream, I'm finding it very difficult to restrain myself from going into the kitchen and whipping up a batch (I mean, double batch, naturally).

Meet my new favorite ice cream....caramel.  Hello.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Greenlawn Cemetery

Yesterday was a warm & sunny day in Central Ohio, but not quite hot enough to go to the pool.  So the Bachsters and I went on a photoshoot instead and headed to Greenlawn Cemetery just outside downtown Columbus.  My goal was to get some bird shots, as Greenlawn is known as a good spot for bird watching.  Unfortunately, we didn't see many birds, so we focused our attention on the many beautiful mausoleums at the cemetery.

Exploring Greenlawn prompted a conversation about life and death.....and zombies.  The Bachsters had lots of questions, and it was nice being able to chat about things as we wandered around.


Monday, August 6, 2012

Book Nook - Steal Like an Artist

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon:

Oh my gosh, I love this book.  Love, love, love it.  Please excuse the profuse praise that is about to follow.

This is a tiny little book all about creativity.  Little things you can do to fuel your creativity and your passions.  As someone who would very much like to be a "creative type" I positively ate this book up.  And then had seconds.

One of the things author Austin Kleon recommends is "stealing" from artists/musicians/writers/etc. that you admire; hence the catchy title.  But it's not about plagiarizing these great thinkers, but rather taking something that they did, making your own contribution to the idea and turning it into something all your own.  I'm big into quotes, and there are lots of quotes in this section from very famous artists on stealing - Pablo Picasso, T.S. Eliot, Salvador Dali.  The goal is to get inside the head of the original creator so that you can learn their thought process - and then build your own style from there. 

There are also short chapters on how to share your work on the internet and why it's a good idea; some great ideas about the "boring" part of creative work - your desk space, creating a calendar, etc; make sure to use your hands to make something & step slowly away from that brain-drain called the computer.  These are but a few of the ideas presented in the book.

One great thing about this book is that it's tiny.  You can read it in one sitting, easy.  I think the author really understands creative types here, because a big, fat instructional book about creativity is something that most creative types wouldn't bother with.  This book reads like you're sitting down for coffee with the author and he's come up with some really great ideas on things to spark your creativity.  Oh, but now he's got to run because he's got to be at this [insert really cool, creative-type activity here].  It's short, sweet, to the point and doesn't linger.  Which is a good thing, because otherwise, he'd have lost us.

I could probably gush about every page of this tiny treasure, but I will show some restraint and just talk about a few pages/ideas that really struck me:
  • "What to copy is a little bit trickier.  Don't just steal the style, steal the thinking behind the style.  You don't want to look like your heroes, you want to see like your heroes."  -page 36
  • "Your brain gets too comfortable in your everyday surroundings.  You need to make it uncomfortable.  You need to spend some time in another land, among people that do things differently than you.  Travel makes the world look new, and when the world looks new, our brains work harder." -page 94
(I've always been a big proponent of self-guided travel - or any travel, for that matter- for this very reason.  I keep telling DH that I want to travel with the Bachsters, to give them a different kind of education.  Fortunately, I'm preaching to the choir)
  • Get yourself a calendar (page 127) and keep a logbook (page 129) - these are great ideas.
  • Favorite quote from the book (and there are so many to choose from): "The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life." - Jessica Hische (page 64)
Austin Kleon, let's have coffee again soon, ok?


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Ice Cream Sundays - {mojito granitas}

Last weekend, as we were leaving the Ohio State Fair (here's the post) we were all hot, tired & beat.  I perked up when I remembered that I had mojito granitas waiting for me in the freezer....true summertime comfort food!

The recipe for mojito granitas can be found in The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz.  I'm working my way through the book, a la Julie & Julia.  I've been wondering lately who would play me in the film version of Cheryl & David - I'm thinking Marion Cotillard would be a lovely choice.  I'm not sure who would play David Lebovitz, but in keeping with the Julie & Julia theme, why not Meryl Streep?  She can do any role she sets her mind to!  And Mr. Lebovitz seems to have a pretty good sense of humor, so I think he'd be ok with that choice.

Anyway, back to the mojito granitas. These were super easy to make.  I used tequila instead of rum, because I happened to have just the right amount on hand.  And I used my farmer's market mint.  I loved them - they are like a sweet slushy for grown-ups (nothing like the neon-colored ones we got for the Bachsters at the fair).  However, DH thought they were too minty, so I got all the mojito granitas to myself, which suited me just fine in my post-fair stupor.

If someone were to play you in a film, which actor/actress would you choose for the starring role?  Think that over while you enjoy a slushy mojito granita.


Friday, August 3, 2012

Birthday Ninja

One day a few months ago, Little Dude and I were at the library, in the knitting section (where we find ourselves often).  He picked up this knitting book, flipped through, found a cool Ninja, and asked me if I would knit it for him.  Well, I know that one of these days, much too soon I'm sure, he won't want any knitted toys from Mama, so I've got to strike while the iron is hot.  So, I devised a super-secret-sneaky plan to knit him a ninja for his birthday in July.

I couldn't be more pleased with how this cute ninja turned out.  And Little Dude loves it. 

This was a quick, easy knit.  I couldn't believe how fast everything went.  Good thing too, because I had a birthday deadline!  The night before, I ended up staying up late sewing on the felt pieces, but I didn't want to chance getting caught during the day.  This is a very covert ninja, you see.

Little Dude has been playing and sleeping with his ninja a lot since his birthday.  It warms my heart that he loves his gift so much.  His sisters have asked for ninjas too.  So who knows, maybe we'll have a whole gang of ninjas around here soon.

For those on ravelry, here are my project notes.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Ohio State Fair

Last weekend, DH and I took the Bachsters to the Ohio State Fair.  It's been years since we visited the fair - last time was way, way before our first Bachster was even born.  So it was a lot of fun to go back and try to remember some of the things that we saw the first time.  One thing remains constant: the fair is so huge that it would be very hard to do it all in one day.

A gigantic carved squash:

We didn't get to see the Civil War encampment.  We didn't get to see the knitting exhibition.  We didn't get to see the pig race.  We didn't get to see the butter sculptures.  But we did have a lot of fun and the Bachsters got to ride as many rides as they had energy for.  And there was lots of cotton candy, slushies and funnel cakes.  After about 4 hours, we were all pretty beat.  And that's when you have to come to terms with the fact that you just can't see it all in one day.

There will always be butter sculptures next year!