Our new neighbor gifted us with this TinkerToy set:

And father and daughter spent the next six hours that day, and the entire following day playing with the set:

I was not sure who had more fun:

And the creativity flowed for hours.

All in all, they made a car, a train, a contraption to wheel around the house, a levy system and I forget what else.

I think I caught hubby "oohing" in this picture:

And I am pretty sure I caught him feeling like a proud six year old boy in this picture:

And I lost my dining room table. I have not seen it since.

Who knew an old fashioned toy was still cool to play with? Daddy and daughter are having fun!

Life with Kerri is nostalgic.

Hot lunch

Hot lunch, wearing me out
Hot lunch, you can scream and shout

(To the tune of "Hot Legs" - that one's for my mother, the only fan Rod Stewart has left.)

The kid starts school in a few weeks.  She was in 4K last year, which was only half days.  Now she'll be the big mouth on campus all day long.  That means I need to figure out what to do about lunch (unless maybe her father is planning to take care of it . . . . ha ha!  Oooh, my side is splitting! I kill myself!). My initial thinking is that I will have her buy the school lunch on days where there is a decent meatless option.  On days when there is not a meatless option, I will send her with a lunch.  But, what to send?

At home her lunches often consist of veggie "chicken" nuggets, which aren't too tasty unless heated (and I'm assuming it won't be feasible for her to heat stuff up at school, even if she did know how). Same with veggie hot dogs.  I often pair these items with black beans, apple sauce, and other side items.

I chatted with a mom whose daughter just finished kindergarten at the same school, so I asked her for some details on how the lunch program works (it's nice that they have pre-paid accounts these days so that kids don't have to carry/lose cash). I feared I wouldn't be able to send peanut butter but she told me that I can send peanut butter - I just have to make sure A doesn't sit at the peanut-free table in the lunchroom.

So, a question for the veg people and carnivores alike: what can I send in my child's lunch?  I am pretty sure she will quickly tire of peanut butter sandwiches and cheese sandwiches.  I am totally down with tofurkey, but short stuff is not.  I would love to hear some creative ideas!  Remember, though, even though she is a vegetarian, she is still a five-year-old who would happily eat macaroni and cheese three times a day.

Testing...testing....Please give me your opinion!

I need your help. I don't know which pie to make so I am taking a poll. Please tell me what you think.

Here's the story:

On Sunday I am making the desserts for a small wedding. There will be no wedding cake, only an assortment of pies. At the tasting several months ago with the bridal couple and the bride's parents, the flavors of pies were chosen for the wedding. The list included banana cream, chocolate cream, peach pie, berry pie, pumpkin pie, strawberry rhubarb and also....coconut custard pie.

The mother of the bride suggested coconut custard. When she did, someone else said, "You mean coconut cream pie?" to which she replied, "No! Coconut custard pie!"

I confess that I had never made a coconut custard pie but I consented to making it because I was confident that I could with a recipe. But in researching recipes I am finding that coconut custard pie isn't easily defined.

This week I tested two recipes that are very different from each other. I am still unsure what I should make for the wedding. If you have any experience at all with coconut custard pie, I would appreciate some input! It is not part of my pie lexicon so I'm not sure if there is a strong opinion about what coconut custard pie should be. Pies are often regional in their origin and sometimes they are brought down through families with a cultural history. I don't know if this is true for the bride's mother. I have no way of asking her either. Help me out if you have any ideas!

Here is my first coconut custard pie. The recipe is from the Williams Sonoma Baking Book.

By the way, I'm sorry you can't give these pies a taste test. That would be helpful wouldn't it? I'll describe them for you though.

This pie had an egg, milk and sugar filling with toasted coconut. The coconut floated to the top and the filling underneath was very sweet. The style of the pie reminded me of a pecan pie. There was lemon zest in the filling and the flavor of it was very prominent. This pie was not very coconutty, even with the toasted coconut. If I made it again, I would eliminate the lemon because it was just too strong and I would use coconut milk instead of whole milk to try and bring out more coconut flavor.

The second pie I tried is a Martha Stewart recipe for Coconut Custard Pie.
The filling was cooked like a custard on the stovetop with coconut milk, eggs and sugar. I added some untoasted, sweetened, shredded coconut to the filling.

My tasters all loved this pie the most. It was smooth and creamy like a... coconut cream pie. From what I can tell with my research the only reason this wouldn't be called a coconut cream pie is that it doesn't have a layer of whipped cream on the top.


A custard is basically an egg pudding. Usually it has milk or cream in it. So a banana cream pie and a chocolate cream pie are actually made with custard too. I think that this second pie is technically a coconut custard pie but is it the kind of custard that the MOB was thinking of? (MOB= Mother Of the Bride)

Other recipes I have seen for Coconut Custard are more similar to a pumpkin pie (which is also a custard, made with eggs and milk) where you bake the mixture of eggs, coconut milk and sugar in the crust instead of cooking it on the stove top. This would be another possible way to go.

So please help me out here. Which do you think is the type of pie that I should make to give the distinction of being a Coconut Custard Pie?

Random thoughts of the day

*Today I met with two bridal couples.
One couple ordered and tasted four different cakes.

*This weekend I have three weddings.
Two hundred servings of cake. Two kinds.
Fifty servings of pie.
Fifty more servings of Summer Berry Pie.

*I can't find any fresh strawberries in the valley.

*Next month I have nine weddings.
Two were just booked this week.

*I really need a secretary. Or assistant. Or something.

*This week is county fair week. Today I missed seeing my daughter show her goats.
She won Champion and Grand Champion ribbons on her applesauce cake and whole wheat bread.

Just letting you know why I'm not a very good blogger lately.
Not that I'm ever a good blogger, but this week I have an excuse.

P.S. I miss my grandsons. I wanna sniff a newborn!!!!!

Contest winner!

Just for fun, we held a contest for "your favorite recipe" last week. The contest ended on Sunday, and we had three entries. Kerri could not decide which recipe she liked best, so she declared everyone a winner. Congratulations Alora, Tia and Tammie! Be on the lookout for a package from Kerri in the mail shortly.

Life with Kerri will return to it's regularly programmed schedule.

Summer Goals: Now? How about now? Maybe now?

I thought I'd update my summer goals and see how I'm faring.

1. See a live concert. Sort of. I saw a local band that played at a free summer concert and a local musician who performed at the outdoor bar we visited last weekend. Do those count? We are going to the state fair in a couple weeks and at that time we’re sure to enjoy a performance from a band with a name like “Gary and the Gobstoppers.” Although I haven’t attended a true paid-good-money-for-this-ticket-even-the-insane-service-fees-because-I-truly-love-this-band concert, I can report that I fell in love with a new band this summer: Mumford & Sons. I listen to their songs over and over. I looked up their concert schedule only to find that they’d already toured the U.S. and are now in Europe. Could they not have called me in May and let me know? “Listen, you’re not hip enough to know who we are yet, but you will love us come June!” Woe is me.

2. Purchase and prepare a vegetable that is unfamiliar to me. Yes. Well, except for the “purchase” part. My nephew’s fiancĂ©e brought me a kohlrabi and gave me some basic preparation tips. I boiled it and then, unsure of what the firmness was supposed to be, I nuked it for a couple of minutes just for good measure. Then I added a bit of salt and ate it. I got a little nervous because one of my friends had compared the taste of a kohlrabi to that of a radish. I would rather eat the gunk I’m always scraping out of Gideon’s yeasty ears than to consume a radish. However, I found the taste to be more akin to a cross between a potato and a water chestnut. It was good. I don’t know that I was so enamored with it that I’ll make this dish all the time, but I’m glad I tried it.

3. Work on leaving the dogs uncrated while we're not home. Houston, we’ve had a setback. The dogs were doing fine for several weeks. Over time, however, we started to notice some mischief taking place while we were at work. Paper dragged out of a wastebasket and chewed up. A’s artwork pulled off the fridgelator and chewed up. And so forth. I didn’t get too upset about the artwork, believe it or not, because my daughter churns out artwork faster (and in greater quantity) than Campbell’s churns out soup. The kicker came when a photo album got chewed up. All of the photos taken over the past six years or so have been stored digitally, of course, but the old stuff is in albums. And needless to say, I have a strong emotional attachment to them. P got mad (when he came home at lunch and observed the photograph-related carnage) and threw all of the pooches back in their crates. However, I’m fairly certain the primary culprit is Kaiser, our foster dog (I accuse him not because he's not ours, but because he is the one who shows the most interest in eating things that don't belong to him). We’re going to try just crating him and see how it goes.

4. Get back to my goal weight. Sadly, no. I did drag my sizable arse to Weight Watchers a couple weeks ago. It wasn’t pretty. The part that makes me bitter is that I feel like I’ve gotten a fair amount of exercise. I walk the dogs a lot, I go to step aerobics fairly regularly, and I ride my bike (including the recent 35k event I completed). So, I don’t know what to do. I’d give up entirely except that I can’t see how that would help anything. I'd rather not reach maximum density if I can avoid it.

I’ll leave you with a video from Mumford & Sons. I do adore a good banjo (which probably explains why I love blue grass but have zero tolerance for country). I also find myself very intrigued by the lead singer – as in, I’d like to know him in the, um, biblical sense. However, I read on their website that all members of the band are “in their early twenties” and then I remembered that I am an old lady.


While at my daughter's, I tackled a few projects for her. This was the last one I did before I left on the most humid day in the history of the universe.

Katie had this ancient little cabinet she picked up somewhere for little or nothing. It had a tin drawer that stored bread back in the days when the loaves weren't wrapped in plastic bags.

I'm happy to report that my daughter, like her mother, does not shy away from color. She is not afraid to take risks.

With delightful results!

And while the can of paint is open, why not something to match?

It is completely appropriate to paint a pantry door red since that color stimulates the appetite.
One can only wonder what the Amish neighbors thought as they drove by my painting station that day.

Sunday funnies.

Yesterday we were entertaining guests (the usual: Carol and Andre, Nana and Steve), when Kerri's new boyfriend rang the doorbell. We told him we were busy eating but if he wanted to come back later he could come in and play the Wii with Kerri.

So he came back within half an hour.

They played almost every game she had - for about ten minutes each - and then decided they wanted to "rock". I could not resist taking pictures:

Kerri singing "Yellow Submarine", boyfriend on the drums.

Carol joined in on the chorus, with Pookie at her side.

Kerri belts it out!
Boyfriend also plays a mean guitar. :o)

Boyfriend's Mom came over several times to try and coax him out of the house. It did not work, so she joined us for a while. But then it was time for him to go home, so we handed them some leftover ribs and sent them on their way, with a promise to play again tomorrow.

In the meantime, Kerri quickly forgot all about her boyfriend and decided she wanted to kiss and marry Steve (Nana's boyfriend). And then she got all shy and upset when (a not so really but pretending to be jealous) Nana confronted her. It took Daddy another half an hour to calm Kerri down and for Kerri to get over Steve and come to the realization that she could not have him.

And then boyfriend showed up in the back yard, asking if he could come back in (at 9 pm!), and Kerri invited him to sleep over. Her parental units almost had a heart attack. Boyfriend was convinced to wait until tomorrow, and Kerri was told in no uncertain terms that she could not just invite boys to sleep over without her parents' permission!

We packed up and took Nana and Steve home, and when we got back, Pookie was peeking out the back verticals, ears back. When we came in, he showed us why. He had jumped up on the table while we were gone and eaten half a raspberry almond crostata, and two entire cupcakes - wrappers and all. A very guilty pooch followed us into bed and collapsed into a diabetic coma. Well not really, but he knew he had done something wrong so maybe he was just pretending for some sympathy.

And that is how we spent our Sunday - laughing all day long for various reasons. And Mommy and Daddy are now shopping for a chastity belt and iron bars for the windows and doors.

OK, maybe not yet. But we are thinking about it! ;o)

Life with Kerri is all about making happy memories.

Michigan Garden Tour

Wherever I go I like to tour gardens. I particularly like to tour the gardens of people that take special thought in the design and execution of their gardens, thinking creatively and having fun with it, resulting in gardens that are a delight to explore.

For a tour of a few Michigan gardens we had Katie's midwife, Susan, as a guide and coordinator.

We started at her own dairy farm where her rambling yard revealed the blooms of a Midwestern summer.

The flowers that were at the peak of bloom were these tall, beautiful garden phlox. We saw them in a number of colors this day including bright pink. I feel inspired to add some to my own gardens.

Touring gardens is an especially fun activity when there are little surprises and hidden places to discover. Sue's vegetable garden was behind a charming gate and was accented with art made with found objects.

Susan's garden was distinctly farm style and well-established.

But the whimsical touches made this garden unique.

Our next stop was at the home of another of Susan's birthing moms. This young mom had a well-fed two month old baby as well as two other small children but still had time to grow a lush vegetable garden. The property was formerly a hog farm and the ground was so fertile it produced the tallest asparagus I have ever seen.

A third garden was at the home and studio salon of a massage therapist. We entered her gardens through this massive and lushly grown grape arbor.

It provided a quiet shady spot for a hot July day.

The sprawling garden had an interesting style and layout. It seemed very unplanned and random in its plantings and yet held its own charm.

There were hundreds of varieties of plants growing in small plots. There were no long farm rows in this garden.

The Michigan rains produced some tall amaranth!

This garden had vegetables, perennials, culinary and medicinal herbs, as well as annual flowers and vines planted shoulder to shoulder.

Adding more charm were the flocks of free range chickens roaming with their broods of chicks.

Katya, the gardener, was experimenting with this planting of cucumbers and lettuces.

The cucumber vines grew on the wire shading the lettuces from the hot mid-summer sun and the wire made the cucumbers easier to find and pick as they hung down from the vines. Another inspirational idea!

These inspirational Michigan gardens were very different from any Oregon gardens I have toured. Wandering through them was a great way to spend a hot summer day.

Go on and kiss dee girl

P and I had a date last night.  Actually, it was a double date.  And no, before you ask, we are not swingers. Yesterday morning, the kid asked me to read her a book while she was still in bed, so I complied.  I'm always happy to read to her, but I have to confess I do weep a little on the inside when she asks me to read Barbie Mariposa to her. After I finished reading the book I told the kid, "A babysitter is coming over tonight to take care of you.  Daddy and I are going on a date."

Her eyes lit up.  "Are you going to kiiiiiiiiiiiiss?"

"I don't know," I responded.  "Do you think Daddy will try to kiss me?"

She nodded.  "He might.  We are family, you know."

I suppose I should be glad we've progressed from the days when she was certain she would grow up and marry her father.  I know every little girl goes through that phase but it is a little bit oogie, if I'm being honest here.  Propriety is slowly building, I suppose.  She often asks us to look away while she is changing her clothes. Of course, I could be wrong about the propriety thing. The other night I gave her a bath and afterward she was monkeying around in her room.  While still completely naked, she laid on her back on the floor, pulled her feet up behind her head, and said, "I'll have to show Daddy that I can do this!"  I delicately suggested that she might want to wear some drawers before striking that pose for her father.

So anyway, we went on our date and had a lot of fun.  We went out to dinner and then sat at an outside bar and listened to a local musician. When we got home, it was around 10 p.m.  I checked on my sleeping daughter and leaned down to kiss her forehead.  "Good-night, baby girl," I whispered. "I love you."

Her eyes popped open.  "Did he kiss you?"  I laughed and told her to go back to sleep.

I'm starting to think she watches too many Disney moves.  Her head is filled with princes and princesses and kisses that have the power to save lives and kingdoms alike.  I climbed into my bed and turned on "Lockup" (cuz I'm classy like that).  My other half eventually wandered in, kissed me good-night and said, "Okay, I gotta finish watching Shutter Island in the other room."  I know, the romance of it brings a tear to the eye, doesn't it?  I just hope I don't get locked in any towers any time soon, because I'm pretty sure I'm S.O.L. 

Last Day

Do I need to say how difficult it is to leave this little guy who will change in the blink of an eye? I won't be able to watch him grow and develop and learn every day.

Once again during the night he was wide awake when his mama needed him to sleep. So he laid on a pile of pillows in my bed, content to look around and oblivious to the normal night-time expectations of sleep. He was so happy and observant for a two week old baby. When I put my face close to him and talked to him, he burst out in a huge, body-engulfing newborn smile, -twice- exuding pure and genuine baby happiness. I knew without a doubt he knows me and my voice and likes me too! But that will all fade from his memory when I am gone as it is replaced with all the other things he needs to learn about.

It was the same with Jonah five years ago. I had to leave after spending two weeks bonding with him during night-time wakefulness. But now my older grandson knows me, loves me and remembers me. Some day the same will happen with Evan too.

So if you are a grandparent living close to your grandchildren, be thankful and be there. You are privileged.

How to clear the pool in five seconds.

Yesterday we spent the entire day outside in our pool. All the neighborhood kids came over to play. Close to dinnertime, there were only two siblings left in the pool, along with Kerri. Then Kerri got a certain look on her face and started to giggle. I knew exactly what had happened.

"Did you just fart in the pool, Kerri?", I asked.

Kerri confirmed, and the two siblings cleared the pool in five seconds flat. Another second later, and they had wrapped themselves up in their towels, collected their belongings, and mumbling thanks took off running for their house.

Kerri and I laughed.

And then Kerri said, "Now I have the pool to myself!"

Of course, that did not last long, because the next neighborhood kid came home from daycare and saw Kerri in the pool. So we spent another hour outside in the water, until Daddy came home.

Life with Kerri keeps me giggling.

Under Construction

Blog changes imminent and in progress....

Saturation Point

My squishy-faced boy

When my brain finally explodes (and I have every reason to believe it will), it won't be motherhood that causes it.  Hell, I don't even raise my voice until after I've picked up the same mateless shoe off the floor for the hundredth time. It won't be the fact that no one seems to understand the difference between the words "lose" and "loose."  It won't even be the fact that Nickelback persists in recording music even though every word, every note is an affront to humanity in general and to good taste in particular.  Nay, my mental collapse shall likely be caused by our collective treatment of our non-human friends, they who have every bit as much a right to exist on this sagging planet as we do.  One more animal abuse news story might just send me over the edge. Actually, maybe one almost did, because I caught this story yesterday about a donkey being strapped to a parasail.  Just when you thought that the sadists of the world had already come up with every possible way to make quadrupeds miserable, eh?

As you'll recall, I've spent the last ten years donating my spare time to rescue work.  Specifically, I work with Boxers.  Our rescue organization has saved nearly 700 dogs to date. As any rescue or shelter volunteer will tell you, acting on behalf of animals in need is not heroic work.  You don't have time to beat your chest and announce to the world how awesome you are. You don't stop to celebrate all the animals you've helped, because you know it is a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of things. You just keep your head down and keep going, one dog (cat, horse, whatever) at a time.  Right now, my focus is on finding my foster dog a home.  Not just any home - the right home. I find something to love about every single dog I foster and I must do right by each one. It is a process I have repeated over and over again for the last decade or so. 

Most of the dogs we see in rescue are not outright abuse cases.  We did receive three dogs seized by the sheriff last week.  They were being used for breeding and there was also a dead dog on the premises.  We had to euthanize one of the dogs for (extreme) aggression, but the other two are doing well.  Over the years we've taken in a couple of starvation cases, an embedded collar case, and a few other pooches in distress.  The vast majority, however, have simply been victims of circumstance.  Perfectly nice dogs (NOT damaged goods!) displaced by new babies, not taken along to the new house (situated in that mysterious town that does not seem to allow pets), or sometimes simply, "I have no time for him."  Sure, some surrender reasons strike me as being more valid than others, but it is not my place to judge.

It is, of course, the true abuse cases that make the news, if only for a fleeting moment. I can deal with the day to day neglect, because my fellow volunteers and I can make those dogs better, treat them like one of our own, and then find them a new family that will cherish them. We can handle that. Rather, it is the knowledge of vast suffering, often taking place behind closed doors that weighs so heavily. Did you see the video a few months ago of the guy kicking a small dog inside an elevator? If you're lucky, you missed it. But that is the sort of thing that goes on every day, everywhere.

The only thing that brings me any solace at all is that, slowly but surely, the legal system is taking animal abuse and neglect more seriously.  Although the story has faded from the news now, I have not forgotten about the torture of dairy cows at Conklin Farms in Ohio (you can Google it if you have a very strong stomach).  One of the key abusers is facing animal cruelty charges and I can only hope he will be convicted of something. To be sure, most convictions still result in small penalties - usually a cash fine. Few seem to do any jail time at all. However, I have faith that it may get better, that justice will be done.

In the mean time, I'll keep plugging away, doing what I can.  When my heart finally breaks for good, I only hope the doggies remember that I really did try.

July Recipe Exchange

This months theme was Red, White, and/or Blue food. There were so many yummy treats to enjoy. The kids had a great time playing together while the moms cooed over our newest precious little member.

Quick updates!

  • Kerri asked me for her own blog. I explained she already has one, and that I would include whatever she wanted. She argued that "Life with Kerri" was my blog, because I posted pictures that I took and not hers. So we compromised, and Kerri will, from time to time, post her pictures on this blog. Consider yourself warned. :o)
  • Last night we took Daddy out to dinner to the seafood restaurant (which might be renamed "Red Chicken" if these oil spills keep happening!) to celebrate the end of his employer's probation period. There was a spectacular lightening storm, which we really enjoyed watching from our window seats. That is, when we weren't fighting Kerri for the cheesy biscuits!
  • Kerri has a new love interest. Sigh. He is the cute blonde from the corner, and he now rings our doorbell for Kerri to come play. He has already invited himself over on a rainy day for indoor playtime as well. Kerri has told his parents that she is going to marry him. The future in-laws are now super friendly. Oy vey!
  • We are still awaiting vacation news, so our travel plans this summer are still up in the air. But in the meantime, I have to get going on Karate and Girl Guides (which start in September!). Kerri is excited to start these two activities, but for now is enjoying her leisure summer days with her love interest and the neighborhood kids.
  • I started shopping for school supplies with Kerri yesterday. Oh my, how times have changed! And how expensive! I don't remember first grade being so demanding or complicated. After comparing lists with some friends, I don't feel so bad though. I think most parents are in the same boat.
  • Yesterday Kerri had her follow-up appointment with her dermatologist. Her psoriasis is doing so well ever since we started spending as much time as possible outdoors in the sun. She still has some trouble spots, but the doc thinks this is good news, and means that Kerri will respond well to photo-therapy at the Children's Hospital. We are awaiting our referral (still) and I hope we can get in before late Fall, when the days start to get shorter and Kerri won't have that much exposure to the sun.
  • Kerri and I (with Nana's input) are trying to plan hubby's 40th birthday, which is coming up soon. We are not doing that great. So we would appreciate any suggestions.
  • There is still time to enter our recipe contest here. The deadline is Sunday!
Life with Kerri keeps me busy!

Inside an Amish Kitchen

We went a-visiting the other day, down the gravel road to the Glick dairy farm to see Ruth's kitchen where she was making her blackberry pies.

The cabinets were all free-standing pieces of handmade furniture. This was made by her brother-in-law. I was interested to see that the cabinet's oak panel doors are exactly like mine which were made by my father.

The water comes from a well pump outside. It had a small gas motor attached for ease of running a hose to the cattle in the barn.

The July heat was hovering in the mid-90's. The wood cook stove was stoked up for baking.

The fire box on the left side was glowing with warmth- which would feel fantastic in January- but not so much in July.

On the right side is a place to heat water. The girls dip the scalding hot water out to carry to a washing station where it goes into a bowl for cleaning dishes.

There were no counter-tops, only a couple of tables as work-top spaces.

Ruth made beautiful, perfect looking blackberry pies. She used a stopper from a cut glass oil pitcher to make the designs in her lard crust.