14 October 2018

Run, Run, Run

They're all smiling now...
The high school cross country club hosted an elementary school race so kids could get a taste for competitive racing. Though it's not my girls' first race (they've done everything from the Black Hat Dash to the Color Me Green Race), it's the first run they did where I didn't participate with them and therefore, couldn't prod them along when they got tired.
Watching the boys get started.
We arrived in time to watch the boys take off...and then waited. And waited. And waited for them to finish. Let's just say kindergarten boys aren't the fastest animals on the planet.
But then it was the girls' turn! They did a few warmups with the high school girls who'd volunteered at the event and when they were all ready...
...they were off!
The course was just over a mile and it was no surprise to see Claire chugging along at the front of the pack.
A lot of her athleticism comes naturally, so even though she hadn't specifically trained for it, she was able to keep up her pace all the way to the end.
Run, run, run, as fast as you can!
Kate and Evelyn take more of a tortoise and the hare approach. They chugged along at a slower pace and always stuck together for moral support.
So, while Claire was kicking it into the finish line...
...Evelyn and Kate had downgraded to a leisurely stroll, enjoying being spritzed with water by volunteers along the way, and when they were good and ready, walked across the finish line.
Everyone (of course) got a participation ribbon and a snack when they finished and while the girls completed the race using different tactics, Jack and me--and they--were incredibly proud that they toughed it out, regardless of the outcome. Yay for finishing something challenging!
Still smiling!

13 October 2018

30-Minute Crusty Baguettes


Since it's soup season (finally it's not 90F anymore, although we went straight from air conditioning to turning on the heat...where was the gentle transition to autumn?!?), that means I make a lot of rolls, biscuits, bread, and muffins as sides. These crusty baguettes are great because they can be made last minute and still have the characteristic crunchy crust and soft, warm center. The trick is baking it with steam!

Ingredients:

2 cups very warm water
2 1/4 teaspoon yeast
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
3 to 4 cups flour

Preheat oven to 425F and place an empty baking sheet on the lower rack of the oven. In a large bowl, whisk together water, sugar, and yeast. Set bowl atop the preheating oven for ten minutes to allow yeast to activate. Once frothy, slowly stir in the salt and flour until a soft but not sticky dough forms. Continue kneading until elastic. Cut the dough into four even pieces and either twist two together at a time to form two larger loaves or roll out four smaller loaves. Place on a large baking sheet lined with parchment, a baking mat, or greased with cooking spray. You can bake immediately but if you have an extra 15 to 30 minutes to let them rise, they'll be even more delicious. When ready to bake, place the dough in the oven and dump a large cupful of ice on the hot, empty baking sheet, which will create the steam needed to give the bread its characteristic chewy crust. Immediately shut the oven and bake at least fifteen minutes without opening the door. Bake about 15 to 20 minutes or until bread is firm and hollow when thumped. I turned on the broiler for two minutes at the end to give the bread its golden color. Serve warm aside soup, with cheese, or to dip in olive oil and cracked pepper.
Enjoy!

11 October 2018

One Last Swim

While autumn rolled in a few weeks ago, it's felt anything but fall-like. We still had sweltering temperatures, persistent mosquitos, and sweaty, irritable livestock that were ready for the weather to take a break. Seeing that Mother Nature was finally going to cool things off, we used the last hot day to take one last swim. Everyone ate dinner in record time, got in their swimsuits, and hurried outside to bicker about who's lifejacket was whose and who got to use what pool noodle and who could swim out to the giant peacock the fastest. All in good fun, though.
Hate to tell you this, Evelyn, but I don't think you're gonna win.
Henry was the first into the water and he quickly declared, "It's cold!" No doubt! While the days have been hot, we've woken to the pond steaming in the chilly morning air. That didn't stop anyone, though.
Zoey and Henry were happy to splash at the shallow end and chuck handfuls of sand at anything that moved while the older girls swam out to the enormous pool floatie Jack's parents brought for us.
They engaged in a game of King/Queen of the peacock, which they inevitably always lose against Jack. Maybe someday, when he's a geriatric old man, they might be able to out-muscle him to win. Until then, they squeal with delight every time they're tossed into the water.
Eventually, the cold water proved to be too much. The sun was going down, and everyone crawled out with blue lips and goosebumps. After drying off, they helped store away all the water toys in the shed until next season.
...and said goodnight to the horses...
 ...then pulled out the peacock and deflated it, before putting it in storage.
I would say that between evening swims on hot summer days and visiting cousins, the pond got plenty of good use this year. While I am excited for the cooler weather and accompanying bonfires, I will miss watching the kids cool off in the deep waters of our backyard pond.
 Until next year!

01 October 2018

Nut Strudel

I never met my Great Grandma Enchelmaier but knew she was my grandma's mother, was all German, and that I inherited her really delicious nut strudel recipe. I made it for my kids for the first time this past week and it was as delicious as I remember--and what a hit with everyone!
Ingredients:

2 1/4 teaspoons (1 package) yeast
1/4 cup warm water
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cups sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup milk, warmed

Bread Machine Method
Add ingredients according to bread machine instructions (usually wet ingredients on bottom, then dry ingredients on top). Set to dough setting and run.

Traditional Method
Dissolve yeast in warm water with a pinch of sugar to activate yeast. Meanwhile, scald and cool milk. Mix in sugar, salt, egg, and butter. Then combine activated yeast mixture. Mix in half the flour and beat until smooth. Slowly add remaining flour, and knead until dough is firm and slightly sticky, but not dry. Let rise one hour or until doubled.

Nut Mixture
8 ounces chopped or ground pecans
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter

Mix and heat until butter is melted and ingredients are combined. When dough is ready, roll out into a large rectangle. Sprinkle nut mixture over the top all the way to the edges. Roll tightly (like a cinnamon roll). Pinch seams tightly and place on a greased pan in the shape of a U. Let rise again until double. Bake at 350F for 30 to 45 minutes or until golden brown. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Slice and serve.
 Enjoy!

30 September 2018

Good Luck Charm

So happy to be six!
Kate's wish finally came true--she turned six! This sweet, sassy, girlie girl came into our family at the conclusion of Jack's schooling in Iowa and couldn't have picked a worse date: my water broke at ten at night, the day before Jack was scheduled to have three interviews that were going to determine the fate of our family and where we ended up for a job. So, after she arrived, he went to his interviews on approximately five seconds of sleep but did such a fantastic job that he received job offers from all three companies. Conclusion? At her core, Katherine is a good luck charm.
Writing about my children is always surprisingly difficult. How do I sum up someone who, though they're so young, are so complex, interesting, and unique? I don't know how without falling short but here's a glimpse of who Kate is. First off, she has an incredible, healthy sense of humor. She is quick to laugh and says some of the funniest stuff, especially when it comes out without a shred of guile. She speaks her mind and a lot of what she's got going on in there is hilarious.
She is 100% a girlie girl. She loves everything from makeup to dresses to shoes to makeup. If she doesn't feel fancy enough, she remedies it with homemade bling, like paper tiaras to taped-on earrings. However, her love of all things feminine does not mean she won't run around until she's sweating, dig in whatever loose patch of soil she finds and lives with perpetual dirt under the nails, or wrestle and play, scraping her knees and elbows. She's just very ladylike farm girl.
She loves to serve and pamper others, the same as she enjoys. She'll offer foot rubs, fixing hair, and applying makeup to whoever will sit still long enough.
Kate is extremely competitive and the older she gets, the less I have to even the playing field. Now she's got a steady enough hand and smarts to win a lot of things on her own.
Though she's still little, she's a thrill seeker. She gets a wide-eyed, terrified look when she goes on theme park rides and insists she would love going on full-fledged roller coasters. Um, we're going to wait a little longer...once you're on that ride, there's no getting off!
Life might as well be a beach for Kate. She loves the water, the sun, the sand, and the carefree life of it all.
She loves to learn and FINALLY got to go to school with her big sisters this year. It's been everything she's ever dreamed of! Yay for enjoying school!
If you ever need a friend, Kate is your gal. 
Kate and her twin cousin, Elsa.
 Curiosity is strong in Kate, especially if it involves bubbles.
Life with her is like living in a funny nature documentary. Have you ever seen a jaguar drag its prey up a tree? It's like watching Kate scramble up our walls and onto one of the support beams, where she sits and observes, eats snacks, plays with toys, colors...
...or reads her favorite book.
Definitely uses her upper body strength to get up there every day.
Motherhood comes naturally to her.
Snuggling cousin Felicity.
Not only that, she makes everything FUN, whether she's teaching Henry to ride a bike, taking Zoey for a spin, or playing peek-a-boo with a baby cousin. She is already a way better mom than me.

To say Kate loves the water is an understatement.
She has the cutest little dimples!
So much so that she and her siblings were in the pond as often as possible this summer. I have to give Kate credit for patiently encouraging Raven to enjoy the water. I'm not entirely sure if it's a good thing to have a wet dog every time the kids go out to swim but they sure found having her paddle by entertaining.
Kate loves all animals, including chickens.
She would totally kiss a toad.
 She adores the cats.

(Not quite as much as Claire, though).
She's given up her initial discomfort around bugs (June bugs in particular) and has followed in her siblings' footsteps to embrace insects and all their creepy, crawly awesomeness.
Praying mantises are one of her favorites.
Of all of the animal kingdom, dogs and horses are her favorites.
 Fancy is her middle name.
She loves pink!
And her sweet tooth is alive and well!
The day of her birthday, she was in heaven, reveling in the attention and special exceptions. Henry, Zoey and I ate lunch with here, where she smiled like a benevolent queen to her subjects as they sang Happy Birthday to her.
For her birthday dinner, she requested a picnic of fruit, veggies, bread, and cheeses. The weather cooperated wonderfully and she got her wish!
A picnic by the pond.
 Then, we scarfed down Dirt Cake (her all-time favorite) and opened presents like there was no tomorrow.
You can never have too much bling, cake, or pink when you're six!
Though we thought Kate's arrival may not have been ideal, it turns out that everything about her is just perfect. She is a representation of how long our family has been in Indiana, and is one of our last ties to Iowa. She is a ray of sunshine with adorable dimples that show every time she smiles. Kate is quick to forgive, willing to befriend anyone, a born-and-bred farm girl mixed with high-class, and one of the biggest helpers we've ever seen. We sure love her and are loving watching her grow! 
Happy birthday to our adorable, giggly, beautiful,
talented, smart-as-a-whip Katherine!


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