Monday, March 31, 2014

Intro to Illinois!

You may have heard, as my favorite key chain always reminds me - I found a boy in Illinois.  So you can imagine that this week's state holds a special place in my heart, especially since I was a resident of it for four fabulous years.  Plus we Gatchel's have a whole lot of family and friends residing in The Prairie State that makes it even more special.  Almost all of Grant's family is either in the Rockford or Springfield area.  Though he was born in Miami, Grant spent all his life after the first few months living in Illinois until we moved together to Florida after getting married. And I actually work in Peoria.  Well, kinda.  The offices of Ketra A. Mytich, Ltd are located there and I telecommute in from here in Farmington every day.  We both attended Bradley University and called Peoria home for those years.

Am I making it clear that we have a link or two to this week's state?  Plus both kids can firmly claim that they have been to Illinois, they've even slept there!  (On special spiderman and Tangled sheets, natch, thanks to Grandpa Gary)  So when I started gathering my information to share with the kiddos this week I wasn't a bit worried about finding plenty to tell them.  In fact, I soon found myself overwhelmed with data - even I had no clue Illinois had so much to offer.

The state falls middle of the road as to actual size but is fifth overall in terms of population.  A large part of this, of course, is due to the city of Chicago.  Nearly half of Illinois' approximately 12 million person population reside in the "Chicagoland" area.  When I lived there I found that when you asked someone where they were from if they said "Chicago" that could mean anywhere within nearly a two hour radius of the heart of the City.  Everyone knows about Chicago from the Sears Tower, the Great Chicago Fire, the World's Columbian Exposition, its nickname of the Windy City or Second City or as the Candy Capital of America, but I wanted to make it clear to the kiddos that Illinois was more than just Chicago.  So while we of course discussed all of those things when we put up the Illinois wall tonight, I had plenty of other things to share with them.

Farming is done in nearly 80% of the state.  While you may associate corn with Illinois, did you also know that nearly 90% of the pumpkins grown in the US are grown within a 100 mile radius of Peoria?  Or that 85% of the WORLD's supply of canned pumpkin is produced at the Libby's plant in Morton?

And what about the people?  President Ronald Reagan was born and spent his youth in the area around Tampico.  And while not born in Illinois, presidents Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses Grant and current president Barrack Obama all called Illinois home for some time.  Did you know Superman hails from Illinois? That's right, Metropolis is mentioned in the comics as the hometown of Superman, but no state is ever identified.  So the people of the town petitioned DC Comics who agreed to allow the official hometown be located in Illinois.  It's also the birthplace of such famous figures such as Walt Disney, Hilary Clinton, Robin Williams, Shel Silverstein, Bill Murray, Carl Sandburg, Miles Davis and Kanye West.

I was blown away to find out the number of major corporations founded and/or headquartered in Illinois.  It is currently the home of thirty-one Fortune 500 companies ranging from Caterpillar to State Farm, from McDonald's to Walgreens.  Dairy Queen, Steak 'n Shake and Uno's pizzeria, just to name a few, also all began in The Land of Lincoln.  The kids tonight loved seeing all the well known logos make it up on the wall.

Have I piqued your interest yet?  Convinced that maybe Illinois is not synonymous with Chicago?  Stay with us this week, I promise it'll be fun!

Speaking of fun, one of my favorite pastimes is officially back as of today - Happy Opening Day of Major League Baseball!  My much loved Tigers were officially in action today opening up at home versus Kansas City.  The Bean and I rushed through our errands this morning to be sure we'd be back to watch the ceremonies before the game and the first pitch.  My team admittedly looks a little different this year, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.  So happy baseball is back!  And that we won!

I tried tonight to combine a Taste of Chicago (which also just happens to be the name of the two week festival held in downtown every summer) along with a nod to Opening Day.  There's not much that says baseball food more than hot dogs and Chicago has their own style of dog that is more than a little unique. At dinner we feasted on authentic Chicago Style Hot Dogs and Chicago Macaroni Salad.  I was amazed to discover that both kids LOVED the Chicago dogs.  Noah could not stop talking about how much he liked it.  (He has now decided to forgo his plans to move to Idaho, he's going to become an Illinoisan)  And of course you can't go out to the ballgame without some Crackerjacks which has its origins at the Columbian Exposition held in 1893 in Chicago.  I think the kids were just as excited about the prize in the box as the treat itself as we put up the wall tonight.

So excited that we will be doing our Illinois mail call tomorrow night.  My wonderful friend and co-worker Beth I know was hard at work for quite some time to put together a package for the munchkins that promises to be chock full of Illinois surprises.  Plus we'll explore a little more into the Illinois connection to pumpkins as I try out a couple of award winning recipes from the Morton Pumpkin Festival as well as a Swedish butter cookie to pay tribute to the strong Swedish presence in northern Illinois (which Grant can attest to).  So until then...

Illinois Fun Fact of the Day:  The Great Chicago Fire destroyed 17,000 buildings over 2,000 acres as it raged for nearly 31 hours, doing an estimated $222 million in damages to the city.  300 people lost their lives in the fire and it left nearly 100,000 homeless.

My artist hard at work on my windows today

She was drawing an alligator

Ready for the game

They announced the National Anthem and this was her immediate reaction - so proud of my baby!

Anything worth doing is worth doing right!  Official Chicago buns and 100% beef hot dogs

Chicago Macaroni Salad

Take me out to the ball game!

One awesome dinner

The perfect treat for today

Illinois is up and running!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Hail to the Birthday Dog!

Well it's taken the entire month, but apparently Mother Nature finally took me seriously and decided to ease up her death grip on Winter a bit and our day here was bright and sunny.  Still a bit chilly but thank you God for the sunshine!  We even all trooped out this afternoon for a family walk just to soak up a few rays (and burn off some extra energy).  Rumor has it that we might be near 60 tomorrow.  Just in time for one of my favorite events of the whole year - Opening Day of the Major League baseball season.  That's right, my boys of summer will be back rockin' the D and I couldn't be more excited.  New manager, a few new faces - go get 'em Tigers!  And so I don't hae any more embarrassing gaffes (I tried to convince my Dad on Friday that they opened on the road, not at Comerica tomorrow and that they weren't home 'til Friday.  Um, that'd be last seasons schedule Kristi...) I spent part of my morning getting the season schedule put together to hang up for us for a quick reference.  You'll have to see what I came up with below.  But that's tomorrow, back to today...

We started our morning with a Idaho Potato Breakfast Scramble so squeeze out the last day of our Idaho celebration.  Noah especially really loved this (enough to forgive me for not making these Potato Cinnamon rolls as I had said I was going to make earlier in the week) and it was an easy breakfast to throw together and get us going this busy morning.

At breakfast Grant reminded the kiddos that it was a special day at the Gatchel's - it's Bella's 8th birthday!  A very happy puppy birthday to my 'oldest child'.  The kiddos helped me make some of her favorite dog biscuits this morning before they headed off with Grant to do some shopping while I finished organizing things to kick off Illinois week tomorrow, worked on my Tigers board and a few other odds and ends.

I gave the kids their Idaho pop quiz when we were out on our walk and I was so proud of them.  Noah remembered that the flower was a 'syringa' - I mean come on!  They totally earned their prize this week which they wasted no time trying out when we got home.  Check it out in the pictures!

Then it was time to cheer on our favorite guys in Maize and Blue!  We're of course all decked out in our gear today.  What a game!  Not sure which of the four of us did the most yelling.  We didn't pull it out this time, bummer.  But my crew bleeds maize and blue all the time - win or lose.  We're not fair weather fans nor do we jump on the band wagon when it's convenient.  We're proud of our guys and will be ready to cheer them on next year.  Hail to the Victors!

With the game I gave Idaho one last culinary go with a Western Shepherd's Pie.  I picked this recipe specifically for Grant who loves shepherd's pie.  This was a little different as it had chicken and lots of southwest flavors, but I'm glad we tried it.  It has made my house smell so enticing all day as it cooked away in the crock pot.

So lots to look forward to this week with baseball starting (bummed we won't be cheering on a Final Four team on Saturday) and starting our Illinois celebrations.  Grant and I both have quite a few ties to the Prairie State - he spent nearly his whole life there and I kinda technically work there :)  So hang with us this week as we check it all out.  Until then...

Got our suncatchers hung last night

Idaho Mashed Potato Scramble

Ready to make some treats for Bella (Decked out in their gear, of course)

Ready to bake up

Giving her a treat

We're ready!

Go Get 'Em Tigers!

Their prizes for acing their pop quiz (It's a sticker album where they can collect the stickers)

Special dinner for our furry birthday girl

Working on their sticker albums

Western Shepherd's Pie

A bit messy but super yummy

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Saturday Dancin'

It was quite a battle there in the second half (between the two of us I think Grant and I managed to wake up the kiddos yelling) but my Wolverines managed to stick it out last night and earn an Elite 8 berth.  We are all looking forward to watching the game tomorrow and cheering them to the Final 4.  Tonight we're Dayton fans, though - Go Flyers!

We've all had a great Saturday in the meantime.  We started the morning off with some fun chocolate chip potato poppers and it was about then that I noticed that our Kansas sunflower was growing!  We have greenery!  Finally something we've decided to grow during this whole project (unlike the cactus and diamonds tried prior) is showing some life.  Maybe another sure sign Spring is on the way?

Then Noah and Grant headed off to the Michigan Science Center to check out the Kidstruction Zone exhibit running for the final weekend while the Bean and I made a quick trip to Walgreens to get our pictures for the Idaho scrapbook page and then headed off to the Library for the Dance Party!  We had lots of fun, though my only complaint was that they held it in the regular meeting room that definitely did not accommodate everyone that came.  Think if they do it again they should move it to the auditorium.  Then when we got back the Bean helped me create the Idaho scrapbook page, which we wrapped up just before Noah and Grant made it home for lunch.

This afternoon we FINALLY got to catch up with our favorite friends from Maryland, the Kunkles.  It was so good to talk to Arthur, Kristina and the beautiful Miss Lillian.  A trip to catch up with them here soon is in the works....

I messed up and didn't realize the Dayton v. Florida game was on early tonight and already told the kiddos they could have a dinner and movie night.  We gave them the option of choosing which they'd rather, and Muppets it was.  (Because as Grant pointed out to me last week he hadn't actually seen the previous Muppet movie (which we own) which was an important lead in to the one from last weekend.)  So I'm here keeping Grant and I up on the Dayton score while dinner and the Muppets it is.

The kiddos and Grant are heading out to go shopping tomorrow (rumor has it there is some event going on here next weekend...), we're hoping to catch a walk in the sunshine (we might hit 50!) then for sure some Michigan hoops and one last Idaho day with a pop quiz and some Western Shepherd pie.  Can't wait!  Until then...

Idaho Fun Fact of the Day: The world's first nuclear power plant was built at the Idaho National Environmental and Engineering Laboratory (INEEL), near Arco, Idaho in 1953.

Chocolate Chip Potato Poppers

Our sunflower are sprouting!

The Bean and I ready for the Dance Party!

Constructing away


Our Idaho Scrapbook page is done!  Kayla was a huge help

Friday, March 28, 2014

Friday Fun

It's been another dreary (but warmer!) day in Farmington but we haven't let that get our spirits down.  Again, not sure what it is with this week but all of us here must really be looking forward to Spring because there's been a whole lot of sunshine inside Casa de Gatchel.

Kind of an abbreviated post tonight as my crew and I currently deeply immersed in cheering on our Wolverines as they take on Texas in their Sweet 16 game tonight.  I am admittedly not a huge basketball fan but I really do enjoy the excitement of March Madness.  I track the team through the year, catch a game when I can, but it is nowhere near my devotion to the football program or my much beloved Tigers.  (Who officially start their season on Monday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)  Anyway, we're here enjoying the game at the moment and keeping our fingers crossed that we'll be playing again on Sunday as part of the Elite 8.  (And on my birthday next week for the Final Four, and the Championship on the 7th while we're at it ;-) )

Anyway, fabulous day!  The Bean and I spent our morning at a coffee date with my friend Jen who it was wonderful to catch up with.  I know I say it often, but I have some super cool friends!  We got back with enough time for me to make quite a mess out of my kitchen.  I have been looking forward to making Fried Mashed Potato Balls as I knew Grant especially would love them, but e gad!  They were fortunately (according to everyone here) well worth the mess.  That coupled with my attempt at Potato Candy that i mostly made last night.  Apparently my definition of "like cookie dough" was nothing like that of the author of the recipe as there was no way in heck I was going to be able to roll this in a tight log - it was well stuck to the wax paper on the bottom.  So last night I made the most of it, wrapped it up as was and stuck it in the fridge.  This afternoon I tried slicing it, which it did fairly well, I just decided we'd have to eat around the paper, hehehe.  I'm glad I didn't just chuck the whole thing as Thing 1 and Thing 2 think this is like the best stuff ever now.  Alright, suppose a messy kitchen is worth keeping my whole crew happy.

Back to the game!  We're splitting up for awhile tomorrow - Grant and Noah are going to the Science Center for the last chance the "Kidstruction" Zone and the Bean and I are going to the Dance Party the library is having!  Then we're here for the afternoon with a hopeful skype session with the Kunkle's and dinner and a movie.   Should be fun!  Until then...

Idaho Fun Fact of the Day: Grangeville is located in north central Idaho. The community is considered the getaway to five wilderness areas and four national forests totaling 5 1/2 million acres. The total is second only to Alaska in designated wilderness area.

My favorite coffee companion

She wanted to take a picture of our coffees

Potato Candy

I checked on our suncatchers today.  I was able to remove them from the kids, but they were still a bit sticky on the bottom so I flipped them over so they could finish drying

Mashed potato balls

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Crafty Idaho

This has been such a great week.  I don't know what it is particularly, but my mood has been fabulous, we have had lots of fun and the kids (for the most part) have been great.  I think my determination to get a little more sleep each night and my ultimate decision to decide how much of certain situations I am going to even bother dealing with anymore has made a huge impact.  It may have taken 31 years (gulp, yep next week) but I am finally starting to see that at the end of the day, I'm really the only one I have control over.  Plus I get to decide how much I am going to let others behavior, choices and decisions (whatever they may be) effect me.

I got another lift late last night when in the midst of exchanging emails with Noah's teacher about when I could next come in and help in the classroom she writes me to say "Noah has been really excited about what you are working on at home.  He's been telling me about Idaho and gold mining...sounds fun!"  I know this really isn't all that big of a deal, but it made my whole night!  I have put a LOT of work into this whole project and knowing that he 1) is enjoying it and 2) he is sharing his knowledge with others delights me to no end!  

If that wasn't enough I got to spend my morning with my friend Tess' daughter Alexis.  Tess was helping out in her son's class this morning and I was delighted to hang out with Alexis while my twosome were in school.  We headed off to Michael's to get the supplies to make some princess crowns and went to town!  She did a BEAUTIFUL job decorating them and we had a lot of fun.  Tess, you should be SO proud of her.

After swapping Alexis for Mikayla, we headed off to check out the Book Fair at Beechview (which I failed to realize didn't open until 5pm.  Epic Fail), run another quick errand and then it was back here for the afternoon like usual.  We got Noah off the bus and then the kiddos set out to create their state maps.  They had already been discussing what they were going to draw on the way to the bus this morning so I was expecting big things :)  They, as usual, made me smile.  Check them out below.  They also got some really fun mail from Aunt Shell and all the minions today.  It made me glad to only have two to keep track of - I think Michelle's got a whole minion army at her house, all of which she named in her letters.  (I'm not kidding, there are at least 20 of them.  I do love you, Shell!)

Mikayla has been getting fidgety about two landlocked states in a row and the lack of seafood, so I took into consideration how important fishing is as a recreational activity in Idaho and decided to try out a recipe for  Lemony Steamed Trout.  The Bean of course was delighted.  I don't think I've ever cooked trout before so this was tasty and SUPER easy.  Every night this week my crew has made meals disappear in twenty minutes or less.  Maybe Noah's onto something with this moving to Idaho, thing.  Since I learned that you never serve fish without a bread side (to assist with getting a bone dislodged if it ever so happened supposedly) I made some Potato Rosemary Rolls to accompany dinner tonight.  YUM!

After dinner we finally got a chance to take a look at the mail we got from Idaho.  My friend, Deb, has a friend, Judy who is a retired teacher that, with her husband, does some driving across the country for FedEx.  She has helped us with a few states now and she was kind enough to send both Noah and Kayla postcards from Idaho!  Noah thought the couch potato post card was about the funniest thing ever.

We also put together our "We've Been There State"  Yet again, sadly, no Gatchel's can claim to have been to Idaho (we're going to be remedying this with the next couple of states, promise!).  But I think that Noah and Mikayla are both pretty determined to make it out there now.

A coffee date in the morning with my friend, Jen, storytime with the Bean, fried mashed potato balls, potato candy (yep, you read that right.  Candy with potato in it, too!) and Michigan basketball promise to be the highlights of tomorrow.  Until then...

Idaho Fun Fact of the Day:  American Falls is unique from most communities because the entire town was moved in the mid-1920s when the original American Falls Dam was constructed.

(I found a couple more pictures from last night.  My stupid camera had created a new folder I didn't know about.)

Hanging out with Miss A

 One for Tess

And me

And the Bean!

She loved her crown - she wanted to make sure Alexis knew how much she appreciated it!

Mail from Aunt Shell!


Noah's Idaho: This is the state of Idaho, with a potato in it that says Idaho.  It also says Boise 'cause that'd the capital

Mikayla's Idaho:  This is Idaho.  It has gysers (off to the left) and these are the gems I dug out with Daddy.

They colored the pictures Aunt Shell and the Minions sent them

Working on the "We've Been There" State

Potato Rosemary Rolls

Rainbow trout!


Our Idaho postcards