Can’t we just stay here a while longer?

I love summer. I love coming home from work while the sun is still bright and warm and knowing it’s going to stay that way for several more hours. I love that on these days when my husband and son have already gone off to work by the time my work day has come to an end, I know that the house won’t be quiet for long. Kacey’s work day is ending and she’ll soon be coming through the front door.

I want to do all my cooking on the grill on these warm summer evenings. Everything is so easy and tastes so good when it’s been cooked on the grill. Tonight I scrubbed up a few potatoes, left the skin on and sliced them thin. I chopped a small onion and then a home-grown green pepper. Don’t green peppers smell good?  And the home-grown kind smell so much better than the store-bought kind. I made a foil packet for all of these veggies and tossed in some butter, then put it on the grill. By the time Kacey came home, the pork chops were just going on.

I sat out on the deck tonight in the only patch of shade available under the canopy. The air was warm, but not uncomfortable and the smell of dinner drifted over from the grill. Mark just refilled the bird feeders and the birds were feasting. I watered the flowers in their pots. I sipped a light beer and  listened to the sounds of traffic. There are plenty of motorcycles to see out on the road this time of year. Sometimes I think I’d like to be riding on the back of one of them.

I’ve had lots of girl time with Kacey lately. I’m soaking it up and trying not to think about her leaving for school again in a few weeks. She sits on the deck with me and tells me stories about her summer job. She’s a good employee and they like her at work. She works in a file vault with many people of other nationalities. Her boss, Dawitt has a soft spot for her, I can tell. He alternately teases her and tells her what good work she does. He says, “Kacey, you go college. Come back. I kick out old lady and give you her job.”

“Which lady,” Kacey asks?

“One out front at desk. I kick her out. She crabby.”

Kacey joins in on Dawitt’s joke. “Send her to the nursing home,” she says!

“I not say it! I not say it,” Dawitt laughs as he walks away.

I love talking to Kacey. She knows who she is and she likes who she is. I love that about her. She embraces all of the experiences that come her way. I always say I could never work in a file vault. There’s a reason they hire college kids as summer temps for that job. No one wants to stay there forever. But Kacey admits that although she might not want to deal with files for the rest of her life, she enjoys the office environment. She embraces the challenge of the work. She likes to do a good job. I feel like she’ll make her way. She’ll make the best of what comes her way and she’ll climb her way to the things she finds really fulfilling.

Lucy is happy to have Kacey home too. She gets twice the attention when Kacey is around. After dinner, they play on the living room floor with the tire toy and we laugh at how silly our dog is.

Connor is pretty likely to come around on these summer nights. If he doesn’t come for dinner, he’ll be here shortly after. Sometimes he and Kacey hang around the house and I enjoy their silliness and laughter. Sometimes they go off to find something or someplace more entertaining than home. But I like that they come and go through the door often during these summer days.

I was just thinking how summer will start coming to an end soon and how much I’ll miss it. But I just realized that as much as I love the long days and warm temperatures, the birds and the blue sky and the grill, it’s not summer that I’ll really miss so much. It’s them that I’ll miss.

Hangin’ Out on the Deck

It was a beautiful summer weekend. The humidity finally dropped off for a while and we were able to open windows and let some fresh air inside. Saturday brought plenty of sunshine and a blue sky spotted with the occasional fluffy cloud. Our deck was a great place to be this weekend, and we weren’t the only ones who thought so.

Woodpecker

Mark wanted to know why I was spending my time taking pictures of the woodpecker instead of chasing him away!

Toady!

This toad was hiding on a plastic chair, underneath the canvas grill cover. Mark had neglected to cover the grill back up the last time he used it and Kacey moved the cover as she was searching for a plastic jug with which to water the plants on the deck. She screeched a little as the toad leapt from the chair to the siding on the house. Normally, I wouldn’t too keen on getting close either, but this guy was kinda cute!

“C’mon! Gimme a kiss!”

Sunday morning brought a steady, gentle rain, the kind that’s so good for the flowers and grass. Lucy needed to go outside, but she wasn’t so sure about the rain. She spent a few minutes going outside, sitting under the canopy, then scratching to come back in. She repeated this routine a few time before finally venturing out into the raindrops. When she came back inside, I tried to rub her down with a towel, but she preferred to dry off by rubbing her body against the living room furniture.

Later in the morning, the rain tapered off and the sun came back out again. A few more visitors came to hang out on the deck. These are frequent visitors to our back yard, but they don’t usually sit still for long or pose so well for me.

Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal

Bowling Skillz!

I just couldn’t let this one go by without a mention -

My summer bowling team has achieved first place!

1st Place, Baby!

That’s us – Well Oiled - up there in the yellow highlight. Have I mentioned this year’s team name? I think I might have. It was a compromise after much discussion. Team member Preacher Dave who is not really a preacher insisted we have a “good” team name this year. We didn’t let new member Troy participate in the team name choosing because he’s the new guy. Also, I don’t think he cared. Dave had lots of ideas but I rejected all of his potential team names due to the fact that they all contained the F-word and/or references to sex. Dave is a highly intelligent man. He’s an architectural engineer who owns his own business. I think his use of naughty words at the bowling alley makes him feel as if he’s rebelling just a little bit. I think Dave’s inner bad boy comes out at the bowling alley. And if his wife knew the team names he suggested, she would beat the crap out of him. Dave would say he could take her. I’ve met her. She totally could beat the crap out of him. But Dave is constantly defending his toughness, saying he may be thin, but he’s “wiry.”

I’ll let you be the judge. Preacher Dave – Intimidating or not?

 

I’m pretty sure I could take him. In fact I punched him last night. He punched me first. But he was the only one who grabbed his shoulder and whined, “OWWW!”

Anyway, this first place business … I was actually shocked to see this. I read the standings and then hollered over to Dave, “Hey, guess what place we’re in!”

“Ummm, I dunno. Twelfth?”

(Twelfth place is actually a legitimate guess. Trust me.)

So when I revealed that we were actually in first place, he insisted I take a picture and text-message it to Troy who was absent due to being on a fishing vacation in Canada. Fishing in Canada over bowling? Where are the man’s priorities.

And actually, I should clarify that we were in first place for one lovely week, but lost that honor straight-away when we got our butts handed to us last night. So you can see why it was so important to make note of the prestigious but fleeting first place honors.

Oh well. We don’t bowl for the prestige. We bowl for the fun of it. And we are really good at having fun. Unfortunately, there’s no ranking system for being fun. So you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Granola Galore!

I was trying to figure out, does the granola I make taste so good because I make it myself? Or is it really just that good?

I just wanted to make something healthy for myself to eat for breakfast. A friend had mentioned she made her own. She explained that her homemade variety had much less sugar than the commercial brands. That appealed to me and I figured if she could make her own, I could do the same. I bought a few ingredients and then looked for a recipe that fit the things I’d purchased. (I’m a little backwards that way sometimes.) I found one that worked, modified it to suit my own tastes and it turned out good! It was kind of pretty to look at too! I ate it for breakfast for a few days and decided it really was that good. Way better than the store-bought kind.

Heather tried it when she and Brad were here for the weekend and she loved it. I decided to make some for her to take back home. And then I realized my own batch was gone, so Sunday night I ended up making my third batch of homemade granola that week. Mark called home from work and asked what I was doing. When I explained about the granola he asked, “You’re not taking it all to work, are you?”

“Um, yeah. I was planning on it. Why?”

“I liked it. It’s good to snack on. Can you leave some at home?”

So that’s why it had disappeared so quickly!  I told Mark I’d leave some home for him. And before I could take my own container to work the next morning, Kacey poured herself a bowl and ate it before leaving for her own job. Who would have thought that my family of junk-food lovers would get so excited over my “healthy” food?

I’ve since replenished my supply of ingredients. Now Mark wants to know if I can make it into bars for easier snacking. Clearly I’ll be making more and doing so often!

Bake and stir and bake some more…

Ingredients

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped pecans (or cashews or slivered almonds or a mixture of whatever nuts you like)
  • 3/4 cup shredded sweet coconut
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup raisins (or golden raisins or dried cranberries or a combination any of these)

Directions

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine the oats, nuts, coconut, and brown sugar. In a separate bowl, combine maple syrup, oil, and salt. Combine both mixtures and pour onto 2 sheet pans. Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes to achieve an even color. Remove from oven and transfer into a large bowl. Add raisins and mix until evenly distributed.

Mix in the raisins after the granola has cooled.

Pour in a bowl. Pour in some milk and enjoy!

Lucy’s Visitors

Brad and Heather were home this past weekend. It was a work weekend for Mark – working nights and sleeping days. And Kacey was gone for the weekend with Connor at his grandpa’s cabin. And Jake? Well it seems like he’s always gone. We sure don’t see much of him. So I had Brad and Heather mostly to myself.

We enjoyed a low-key weekend, not wanting to be out and about too much. Brad wanted to make sure they were around during those windows of time when his dad was awake and not gone to work yet. So we entertained ourselves by cooking together and eating together. We did a little shopping and played with the dogs. We watched movies and enjoyed mornings on the deck drinking coffee.

I love these weekends with my oldest son and his clan. I love that he and Heather don’t mind hanging out with the family and I enjoy cooking for them and taking care of them. These weekends always go too fast and there’s always a lump in my throat when it’s time for them to leave again.

Lucy loves these visits too. In fact, I’m quite sure she thinks that our visitors come solely for her benefit. When they first arrive, she’s beyond excited to see her pal, Dacotah. And as soon as she can garner some attention from Brad and Heather, I’m all but forgotten. Normally, Lucy comes to bed with me and stays there until I rise in the morning. When Brad and Heather are here, Lucy wants to sleep wherever Dacotah is sleeping which is usually with Brad.

Lucy and Dacotah wear themselves out tumbling and playing in the living room. Lucy is still “on restriction” since her hip surgery, so chasing around the back yard is out of the question. Instead, the two dogs entertain themselves as best they can in the house, scuffling over toys and fighting for human attention with one another.

 

 

I think Lucy thinks that Heather belongs to her. I don’t know exactly what it is. Does Lucy understand that Heather is a “dog person” through and through? Maybe it’s Heather’s sweet voice that appeals to Lucy or the generous affection and attention Heather showers over her. But when Heather is around, am chopped liver.

Sleeping through a movie together

Dacotah is so tolerant of Lucy’s antics. Lucy insists on walking underneath Dacotah and knocking her off balance. She licks Dacotah’s ears and refuses to let Dacotah play with her toys. When anyone comes home and the dogs go to greet them, Lucy “boxes out” Dacotah so she can be the first one to receive a pat on the head or scratch behind the ears. Still, Dacotah loves Lucy and graciously takes the back seat to her younger pal.

And after Brad, Heather and Dacotah go home again, Lucy pouts. She sleeps a lot too. Having visitors takes it out of her! And she always spends a day or so looking to see if her guests are simply hiding on her. Today, she wandered down the hallway to Brad’s bedroom, scratching on the closed door. She wandered away, dejected upon realizing that neither Brad nor Heather was going to come out. It makes me feel a little sad to see Lucy feeling so lonely after they’ve gone. But I’ll gladly resume my place as the favorite human in the house. I’ll pamper her and be her cuddle buddy when she wants attention at least until her visitors come again!

And the world got a little smaller!

When I started writing a blog five years ago, I never would have guessed that the people who came by to read my stuff, the people whose stuff I’d make a routine of reading, would someday become people I would consider friends. I never imagined that. And furthermore, I never imagined I would meet these friends in person. But I have now actually had that privilege; several times. It is always an honor and always so fun to see my blog friends in person, to see live and in person those personality traits that are so easily displayed in their writing.

Friday, I had the pleasure of meeting Agg! He was in town for work but made time to squeeze in a visit with me. We made plans to go out for lunch at a place Agg was quite sure he’d read about on my blog, although I assured him it was not me who’d written a review. When he suggested we eat at The Nook, I was excited. I had seen a local news story on this little bar/restaurant a while ago. There had been a fire, and some ensuing renovations and then a grand reopening. It was while watching this news story that I learned this little corner place is locally famous for their burgers, the Juicy Nookie in particular! I made a note to self to go eat there sometime, but just hadn’t made it happen. Agg’s visit was the perfect excuse!

Agg arrived at my house in the late morning and let me just tell you, my very first impression was, “Holy cow, this man is TALL!”

I didn’t want to be rude though, and so I kept my thoughts to myself. (Agg, how tall are you anyway?) And just so you have some perspective, I am a tall woman at over 5′ 9″, so a person must be pretty tall to strike me as being very tall!

As Agg was getting out of his car, I came out to the driveway to greet him. You might think it would be awkward meeting in person when you’ve never done so before, but it wasn’t awkward at all! We hugged like old friends and then I hauled him inside to meet the members of the family who happened to be around. Brad and Heather were home for the weekend, and of course, Agg had to meet Lucy Pie and her pal, Dacotah! It was too early yet for lunch, so we had some coffee and swapped stories and Brad and Heather got to know Agg a little bit. And Agg is a great storyteller too. He swapped hunting tales with Brad and told us the stories of how his various dogs had come into his life. I hope someday that Agg will write on his blog the story of the dog who kept digging up  paving bricks and scattering them all over the yard! It is quite a comical tale!

Soon it was time to head to lunch and we all piled into my car and headed for St. Paul and The Nook!

Once inside, it was clear that there would be a wait for a table. The host informed me it would be a half-hour wait unless we cared to go down to the lower level where there was open seating. Everyone was agreeable, so we headed downstairs where the first thing we saw was the old school bowling alley!

I thought we might give the old school bowling a shot, but it just didn’t pan out. I definitely want to try it another time!

Just beyond the bowling alley was the bar and an area full of tables. There was an open spot for four and a friendly waitress quickly passed out menus. Brad, Agg and I all decided to try the famous Juicy Nookie. Heather opted for a Philly cheese steak style burger. We didn’t have to wait for long before our food was delivered, along with a warning from the waitress that the Juicy Nookies were extremely hot and that we should use caution before partaking.

I figured I could munch on my onion rings for a while and let the burger cool a bit. The onion rings were delicious – crispy and greasy as all good onion rings should be with thick rings of onion inside the delicious batter. After a few rings, I wanted to try that famous burger, so I threw caution to the wind and took a nice big bite. It was delicious, stuffed with cheese which exploded out the backside of the burger when I bit into it. MORE NAPKINS!

The conversation remained lively as we all enjoyed our burgers and more stories were shared about Agg’s various travels, his time in Germany, and experiences on the Autobahn! As we talked, we all noticed the ceiling of the bar. It was covered in dollar bills that had each been signed or personalized in some way before being stuck to the ceiling.

Agg asked the waitress the significance of the bills. I thought I’d heard her say there was another bar where people stuck money to the ceiling, but there was a bit of a challenge to it. She said someone decided to start doing it at The Nook. The ceiling is low and easy for most people to reach, and so the trend caught on quickly. (For the record, our little group left without parting with any dollar bills.)

Before we left the restaurant, I asked Agg if we could have our picture taken together. I reminded him that when he’d met Rock Chef, they’d failed to take a picture together and I wasn’t going to let him get away with that this time. He easily agreed!

After lunch, it was back to the house where Agg got to meet a few more family members, Mark and Jake. He also chose this time to bring in a few gifts. Lucy loved hers and refused to let Dacotah play with them at ALL!

Lucy is shown here with the rope toy Agg brought for her. Rope toys manage to survive quite well around here. The little stuffed duck with the squeaker inside? Didn’t last 20 minutes before the squeaker was dead and stuffing was being removed. I had to take it away!

Soon it was time for Agg to head back to the airport. I walked him out to his car and we talked about how fun it would be to meet with some of our other blog pals one day. I’m sure Agg will do so sooner than me, considering how well-traveled he is!

Thanks for the visit, Agg! We had a great time!

IT’S SO HOT!

These are the dog days of summer. Here in Minnesota, you’re required to proclaim now and then that, “It’s not the heat. It’s the humidity.”

It has been very warm for these parts. We’ve seen upper nineties and even a hundred degrees these past couple of weeks. That’s pretty hot for people who are used to trying to stay warm, not cool. Factor humidity into the equation and it gets pretty uncomfortable. It’s been so humid that lately, when I return home from a morning run, my sports bra is so drenched with sweat I could almost wring it out. I’ve sweated so much that Mark has actually looked me up and down, crinkled his nose and stated, “Ick.”

I’m not offended, trust me. I can smell myself after those runs and he’s right. And no shower feels as good as one taken in an effort to wash off all that sweat and stink.

There are two camps of people when it comes to these dog days of summer. There are the ones who’ll tell you to stop complaining because after all, it could be winter! And then there are the ones who say if they wanted to live like this, they’d move to Texas. For the record, I belong to the former.

Just like the cold, though, the heat gives us something to talk about. A complete stranger in the elevator this afternoon struck up a conversation with me about the heat. I reminded him that it could be twenty below and snowing. He asked, “Aren’t we really just looking for the happy medium?”

Are we? I don’t think I am. Here in Minnesota, we get all four seasons. And part of the draw for me is that none of them lasts too long. Except for winter which last nine months. And we’ll get our happy mediums. They’re called spring and fall.

I like summer and I’m not about to wish it away quickly. I happen to like the sun when it’s so hot I can feel it soaking into my skin. I like to catch some rays and get a little summer tan. And I love to be in the water when the heat is so intense that all I want to do is escape it. And not only the weather, I love the sound of lawn mowers and air conditioners running. I like that there are summer foods; tomatoes and corn on the cob and sweet, juicy watermelon that taste as good as they do because you just can’t get them during the rest of the year. I like that people come outside in the summer and the way it always feels like there’s something going on and something to do. I love that there is color all around and that it’s so bright all the time and the way the world feels a little smaller in the summer.

So, yes. It is HOT! But I’m not complaining.

Life with Lucy

Some of us in this house are a little infatuated by our dog.

Each morning as we get ready for work, Kacey and I will often make comments to one another about Lucy.

“Too bad for everyone else that we got the best dog in the world,” I’ll say.

“I know,” Kacey will say. “She is the cutest dog ever.”

“I know,” I’ll say.

She really is seriously cute.

She lets us know when she wants some attention and play time.

“Here! Here’s my ball! Throw it! Throw it! Throw it!”

Lucy is not supposed to be on the living room furniture, but lately, she’s begun a new trick. If I’m sitting in a chair, she puts one paw up on the cushion.

“What,” I will ask her? “Whatcha want, LuLu?”

And then the other paw comes up. And then a hind foot. And then the other. Before you know it, she’s in my lap. She’ll turn her head and look at me as if to say, “Oops! Wouldja look at that? I accidentally climbed up in the chair and onto your lap!”

Watching Mad Men with mom

Sometimes we’ll marvel at the fact that we have the smartest dog in the world. She knows how to secure the comfiest spot in the bed at night. She knows how to ring a bell to let us know she wants to go outside. And she knows how to play catch…

And when Rock Chef showed his dog’s favorite toy on his blog recently, I was reminded of some of Lucy’s favorite toys. These are those dog toys that come with no stuffing. We quickly learned that Lucy feels that anything with stuffing in it must be unstuffed promptly. These did have squeakers in them, but as you might guess, Lucy made it her mission to first destroy the squeakers and then remove them. Now that they’ve been sufficiently de-squeakered, Lucy is quite happy with them.

Oh! What are they? They are a fox and a raccoon!

Maybe they don’t look so much like a fox and a raccoon because Lucy tore enough of a hole in each in the de-squeakering process to allow her to turn them inside out! See what I mean? Smart! They are supposed to look like this.

Yeah, she really is cute and cuddly, loving and energetic.

We’re not quite as confident about her intelligence, though. It’s sporadic. Yesterday we found her licking the walls. And she eats a lot of grass. And leaves. And the Irises. No matter how many times she throws up, she keeps eating all the greens she can find in the back yard.

But quirks and all, we’ll keep her because she really is the best dog in the world!

Summer Days

We are right in the heart of summer and I’m loving it!

My friend, Kendra invited me to her house last weekend. Her neighborhood is built around a 25-acre lake and she asked if I wanted to come worship the sun with her. (I did.) Mark had gone back to work after having several weekends off. The kids were off doing their own thing. It was perfect timing and turned out to be an absolutely perfect, sun-shiny and hot summer day!

Lake Anne

The lake was so quiet and clear! As we floated out on our rafts, I could look into the water and watch schools of little Bass and Sunfish swimming by. One of them tried to eat my leg, but it didn’t hurt. It just surprised me!  Kendra and I talked and laughed and reminisced together for hours! Kendra has a fabulous summer tan going on, but my skin hasn’t seen much sun yet. I brought my sunscreen and applied it several times, but apparently not often enough for the amount of time I spent in and on the water. I spent the next three days suffering the sting of a decent sunburn but now have a decent tan to show for it.

At home in the back yard, the bird feeders are a busy hang-out for the local creatures. We’re having trouble keeping them filled! The squirrels aren’t helping matters. The little Red Squirrel isn’t making any friends either.

Red Squirrel

… chasing a Grey Squirrel …

… establishing dominance!

And even with weather as beautiful as we’ve had, there is still bowling! Summer league is almost done and it’s been a big challenge. I did well last night though.

TURKEY!

The game in the picture above ended with a score of 194 for me! My other games were in the 150s and 170s. I’m always happy to bowl just for the fun of it, but it’s always nice to score well too!