Thursday, June 28, 2012

Robinson Family Reunion

I mentioned in the last post that Joe and I had just returned from a family reunion this past weekend.  We were down in Crowley's Ridge State Park near Paragould, AR.  It had been two years since the last time my Dad's side of the family had all gotten together, so it was really great to see everyone again!  A few cousins weren't able to make the trip and we missed not having them there.  People traveled from Kansas, Missouri, Texas, Ohio, North Carolina, Louisiana and Washington to be at the reunion!  We had the group lodging area at the park reserved for our family, so each individual family had their own cabin and then we shared a large kitchen/dining hall/game room.  Outside there was a pavilion with picnic tables, a nice fishing lake, and plenty of room for setting up corn hole and ladder golf.  Then across the road in the main park area there was a swimming lake and a couple of good trails.  We played a lot of yard games, card games and board games, did some swimming, hiking and fishing, and ate a lot of good food!  Two of Grandma's brothers and their wives even drove down for the day to visit with everyone.  It was a ton of fun and I think everyone had a blast!  I tried to take a bunch of pictures but I've realized that most of them ended up being of people throwing bean bags.  Here are some pics!

The first few pictures are actualy from a winery near St. Genevieve, MO that we decided to stop at on our way to Arkansas.  The signs by the interstate were a little deceptive and made us think that the winery was much closer than it really was.  Several miles and a few dirt roads later, we finally found it.  It is called the Cave Winery because it literally sits over a cave.  We tasted a few wines, bought a couple bottles, then made the quick walk down to the cave to check things out.  It was a pretty cool place and it would have been fun to spend some time there enjoying the wine, but we needed to hit the road again. 

A pretty pond at the winery.

The view from the top of the winery.

Rows of tasty grapes.

The "cave" part of the Cave Winery.  Pretty cool!

It was amazing how much cooler it was inside the cave.  
Now starts the family reunion pictures.  I wish we would have thought about doing individual family pictures and one big group picture.  Someone remind me to do that next time!

The kitchen and dining hall.

Picnic area.

The fishing lake at the group camping area.

One of the 5 cabins.  This one was my family's.

Hi, Mary! :)

Grandpa, Uncle Kenny and Zach doing some fishing.  Zach is an expert fisherman!

Starting on the right and going counter-clockwise we have: Grandma, Uncle Bob, Aunt Barb, Aunt Sharon, Lizzy, Jacob, Uncle Roger and Aunt Audrey.

Joe and Dad playing corn hole.

Sorry, Sara and Mary, I had to post this.  It looks like you two are doing an interpretive dance.  Sara is a wilting flower and Mary is channeling her inner monkey.  Aaaaah, makes me laugh every time :)

Hi, Sara!

This was a club house near the swimming lake.  It and a few other buildings were built during the Great Depression by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp) to provide jobs.  

A few of "The Wishing Well" from across the lake.

The wishing well.

Wishing well from the top.

Joe was ready to do the bunny hop down the Dancing Rabbit Trail!

Grace, Madison, Sara and Aunt Audrey on a wobbly suspension bridge on the Dancing Rabbit Trail.

We had to walk single file along the path because there was quite a bit of poison ivy!

Mary, Grace and Madison on the suspension bridge.

The (Jerry) Robinson Family on the bridge.

Grandpa was a pro!

This game went on for quite some time.

L-R: Madison, Alex, Zach, Aunt Dawn and Uncle Kenny.  

Uncle Dean and Aunt Audrey
Well, that's all I've got for tonight!  We've got a reunion for Mom's side of the family coming up this summer as well, so be on the look out for that!  I also have a couple of cakes planned for next week.  One is an order and the other is just for fun.  I'm excited to do them and to show you all, especially since my cake blog posts have been the most popular so far.  I hope you all are having a great week!  The weekend is almost here so hang in there for a little longer :)  I may or may not just be telling myself that, haha!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Landscaping Updates

It feels like forever since I've written anything here!  Joe and I just got back from the Robinson family reunion  at Crowley's Ridge State Park in Arkansas, and we're pretty wiped out but we had a ton of fun!  It was really great to see the whole family and I'll be sure to post some pictures of all that very soon.  For now, I'll fill you all in on what we did two weekends ago.  I can't believe it's been that long since the last post, yikes!  Anyway, two weekends ago, Joe and I spent almost our entire Saturday reworking the flower bed in front of our house.  

We've been planning to do some work on this bed for a while now but we weren't quite sure what.  We did some "research" by creeping through a few of the really nice neighborhoods in our area.  One thing we noticed pretty consistently was one large evergreen tree in a flower bed at the corner of the house.  We liked this idea, so on our next trip to Home Depot we checked out their tree selection and found a tree called an Arborvitae.  It was tall, but skinny so it would work perfectly in our current flower bed without covering too much of the window that it would be next to.  We came home with an Arborvitae that was about 7' tall and started planning how we would work it into the existing plants in the flower bed.  

The original flower bed layout.  You can't even see the tall grass at the back!
We ended up moving 2 of the grasses to either side of the sidewalk.  
You can see in the picture what we had to work with.  A bunch of day lilies, 3 knock-out roses and 4 Japanese Silver Grasses.  The original plan was to move the day lilies to follow the border of the flower bed, then move the rose and grass plant on the far left to other locations.  By the time it was all said and done, we'd dug up most of the day lilies, every rose plant and every grass plant and moved them, even if only by a few inches.  We just figured that if we were already digging up a few things, we might as well make everything exactly the way we want it.  Of course this day wasn't complete without a couple trips to the Olathe compost and mulch center to fill up my car with some free dirt.  Unfortunately that also led to me needing to wash my car that day, inside and out.  
Now we just have to wait for everything to grow!

Hopefully the grasses will grow nice and tall here since they'll have more sun.  

In the end we were really happy with the result and now we have a nice updated look for the front of our home.  Well, that and a killer sunburn.  But I'm just about done recovering from that :)  The transplanted grasses and lilies seem to have adjusted pretty well to their new homes, but the roses are still a little wilted.  Hopefully they make a full recovery soon!  We still have plans to re-work the flower bed in the back yard, but that will have to wait for another weekend.  For now, here are a few more pictures of our landscaping work.  I hope you all have a great week!  

I thought this would help show how tall the tree is :)

Friday, June 15, 2012

DIY All Seasons Tree

It's been another busy week at our house.  I wish I could say that we have a nice relaxing weekend planned, but instead we'll be spending most of tomorrow outside reworking our front landscaping, and on Sunday I'll be up at the crack of dawn to compete in a duathalon race.  The race consists of running 2.4 miles, biking 13.5 miles then running another 2.4 miles.  Yikes!  Joe and I won't get to see our dads on Father's day, but we hope that they and all you other dads have a great day this Sunday!

One thing that I did complete this week was making some little decorations to hang on the "all seasons" tree that I made several months ago.  I made it back in January and so far it has been decorated for Valentine's day, Easter and now for summer.  It was pretty simple to make and I've kept it out on our dining room table when it is decorated.  I'm hoping to keep up with the decorating for various seasons this year and then hanging on to those decorations that I make so I can reuse them next year.  I did snap a few pictures when I made the tree in hopes of putting them on the blog that I hadn't even created yet :)  Here's how to make an "All Seasons" tree.

Start by chopping a few small branches down from a tree in your yard, or your neighbors yard if your trees don't have nice branches.  Then if you want you can give them a quick coat of spray paint.  I lightly coated them with a couple colors of metallic paint, but I didn't try to hard to get them completely covered.

Next you need to get a small box and find something to fill it with to weigh it down.  What I did was put a few handfuls of rocks from under our porch into the box so that it wouldn't tip over once the sticks were attached.  Then I used an x-acto knife to cut slits where I wanted the sticks to go.  I attached the sticks one at a time by wiggling them into the box, then applying some hot glue around the stick where it met the box.  I used A LOT of hot glue.  The hardest part is waiting for the hot glue to dry enough so that the stick stays up on it's own.  At some point I got tired of waiting and used some duct tape to hold them in place while the glue dried.  Yes, I am incredibly impatient.

Once all the sticks are in place and the glue is dried, you're ready to decorate!  I have a couple of large bowls that I like to use for the tree.  The box is small enough to sit below the edge of the bowl, then I use some fabric or Easter grass to fill the bowl and hide the box.  For Valentine's day I made some little heart ornaments in different sizes.  For Easter (sorry, no pictures!), I hung some bright yarn balls from the tree and placed my tie-dyed Easter eggs around the base of the tree in the Easter grass.

The tree sat empty for the last month or so and I finally decided to make something summery for it.  All I could think to make were some origami paper cranes and some polka dot curly cues. It could probably use a few more ornaments, but at least it isn't bare anymore!

There are 4 cranes, but the 2 gray ones seem to be hidden.

After tomorrow I'll be able to show you all another tree project Joe and I are working on.  It's a much bigger tree though :)  Again I hope you all have a wonderful weekend and a great Father's day!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Simply Delicious Bruschetta

I first made this recipe a few months ago and it has since become our go-to snack to make whenever we have people over for game night or just to visit.  It is easy, fresh and super tasty.  Plus, everyone (including Joe who claims to not like tomatoes) seems to like it.  I first had bruschetta several years ago at an Italian restaurant and I always remembered really liking it, but it wasn't one of those things that I would typically order.  When we went to Italy on our honeymoon last year, we learned that bruschetta is literally just the toasted bread brushed with olive oil, and doesn't include any sort of topping.  That was a little bit of a surprise to us. :)  In America most people associate the term "bruschetta" with the tomato topping that is so common.  This topping typically consists of tomatoes, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and basil.  The recipe I use also includes garlic, but I'm not sure if that is a standard ingredient or not.  All I know is that it is delicious.

This original recipe came from The Pioneer Woman, and she not only makes the tomato topping, but also grills the bread slices in a little butter.  I did the same with the bread the first time I made this and it really did make it extra yummy.  However, it is also awesome spooned on top of crackers right out of the box.  I would definitely recommend using the grape tomatoes like she mentions since they seem to not be quite as juicy.  I've tried using roma tomatoes and even a large slicing tomato, but they just left too much juice at the bottom of the bowl.

The other thing you'll definitely need for this is fresh basil.  When I first made this, I decided to buy a little live basil plant that was being sold in the produce section right by the boxed "fresh" herbs.  I planted it shortly after buying it and now I have a thriving basil plant that I've used for all kinds of recipes!  Lately I've been been trying to think of recipes specifically to use the basil since I have so much off it!  Anyway, here's the recipe:

(Source: The Pioneer Woman)
2 T. olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 pints of grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1 T. balsamic vinegar
16 whole basil leaves, sliced (see the pictures below for an easy way to slice them all at once)

- Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat and add the garlic cloves.  Saute until the garlic just starts to turn light brown.  Once it starts to brown, it goes really quick so watch close!  It should take a couple minutes.  Place garlic in a bowl and let cool while you prepare the other parts.
- Add the tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and basil to the bowl.  Stir to combine and taste to see if it needs some salt and pepper.  It probably will, so add a little till you think it's good :)

The garlic starting to cook.

Toasty brown garlic.

If you use grape tomatoes, you really only have to cut them in half.

To slice all the basil at once, start by stacking them on top of each other.

Then roll them up.

Then start slicing.  You can kind of see how they're all rolled here.

All chopped up.

Tomatoes on top of garlic.

Vinegar on top of tomatoes.

Add the basil.

Salt and pepper and you're all done!

If you're interested in making the buttered and grilled toast pieces (which I highly suggest) then check out the Pioneer Woman's site.  Just click on her name at the top of this post.

Have a great week!