Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Picking A Winner

It's Wednesday!  And still raining...  At times.  We had some pretty strong storms roll through overnight and it has continued to rain on and off here all day but then there's been times of beautiful sunshine.  Plus our lovely 70 degree temperatures have steadily been declining all day and we're looking at just over 50 tomorrow - of course on the day the Bean and I are to head to the farm with her class.  Lovely :-p

But that's tomorrow, there's nothing I can do to change it, so I'll tackle that one when I get there.  In the meantime we've had a pretty fabulous Hump Day here in the Hills.  After running a few quick errands (including one to attempt to track down some rain boots for me as I'm thinking I'm going to be needing them tomorrow...) Tess and I surprised the Bean and A with a trip to the movie theater in Warren to see "Frozen."  Even though its out on video now (and owned by the Janoch's for that matter :-p) we thought it'd be a great treat for the girls to go and get to see it on the big screen one more time.  I'm not sure how as she has only seen the movie twice, but Kayla managed to sing along with the majority of the movie (gee is it a good thing we picked a Wednesday morning to go see this since we had the theater almost completely to ourselves much to the delight of our karaoke belting little ones!).  It was a great way to spend a wet Wednesday and I think it'll be sometime next week before the Bean stops thanking me, which I am completely cool with.

We managed to get Noah home from school, hung out for a bit, finally finished reading"The Wizard of Oz" (Grant should get a medal for that one!) and then sat down to a dinner of Kentucky Hot Browns and Kentucky Spoonbread!  I mentioned yesterday that the hot brown is one of Kentucky's cuisine specialties.  The open-faced sandwich is not named for the color it ends up being after going under the broiler for a bit, but actually due to the fact that it was created at the Brown Hotel in Louisville in the 1920's.  Kind of like the Illinois horseshoe I wasn't sure how this one was going to go over with the littles, but I should know by now whenever I anticipate a problem they shock me and make it disappear.  I've never made spoonbread before but figured since the Spoonbread Festival is actually held in Berea, Kentucky it was worth giving a go.  The kids liked how fluffy it was and said I could make it again ;-)  I also made some Kentucky Colonels for dessert though I can say I have no clue what they have to do with Kentucky or colonels. But I had all the ingredients on hand (yep, even the dates!) so I figured what the heck.  I skipped rolling them in coconut as we're not big coconut fans around here, and while no one was blown away by them they were given a 'not bad' rating.

After some quick baths it was time to sit down and talk horses.  Derby horses, that is. We spent some time tonight perusing the official Kentucky Derby website to learn about each of the horses racing this Saturday and picking our favorites.  We talked about who the experts are picking and Grant and I tried to explain to them betting odds and payoffs.  (You haven't lived until you try to explain this to a four year old - go ahead, I dare ya!)  It was quite the evening and for the record, here are each of the Gatchel's picks for the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby:

Grant: Wicked Strong (because he has a good feeling about it)
Kristi: Hoppertunity (I like the color of the horse)
Noah: Chitu (Because his silks are maize and blue!)
Mikayla: Vicar's in Trouble (Because he is being ridden by the only girl jockey in the field!)

There you have it, folks.  Do you have a favorite?

As I said, the Bean and I are off to Carousel Acres tomorrow and then (hopefully because my amazing sister who lives in Ohio but actually works in Kentucky, says it will be here by then!) tomorrow night will be our Kentucky mail call and the "We've Been There" state (yay, all four Gatchel's will get a sticker this week!).  Plus, I have three letters for you regarding tomorrow night's dinner; KFC.  So until then...

Kentucky Fun Fact of the Day:  Christian County is wet while Bourbon County is dry. Barren County has the most fertile land in the state.

So excited for Frozen!

Kentucky Spoon Bread

Kentucky Hot Brown

Kentucky Colonels

Settling in to view the horses

Since we had it up on the big screen I also let them watch a couple more past Derby's.  They are enthralled!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Jockeying for Position

Rain, rain go away!  It's been a dreary overcast day here in the Hills but that hasn't slowed us down.  We've had a jam packed day for sure - I feel like I haven't stopped moving since I got up this morning!  It's like a whole other kind of races around here :-p

Amid tackling countless loads of laundry, shuffling kids to and from school and buses in the pouring rain, a morning spent in Noah's class helping learn about measuring (26 five year olds with rulers, fun!), a quick trip to find a Vadalia onion and work I've been occupied all day.  Kayla had a good day at school learning about the farm (we're taking a trip there on Thursday, please start praying now for nice weather!) and Noah was in high spirits when he got home because his teacher praised him quite a bit when I was in the classroom this morning and I too told him how proud of him I was of all the good things I was seeing him do when I was there.  So full or not, everyone had a productive and fruitful Tuesday.

For dinner tonight I decided we'd try out Central Kentucky Squambo.  I've decided I love Kentucky culinary creations if for no other reason than they have really fun names.  Who comes up with things like burgoo and sqambo?  Anyway...  I can't really find much of what *exactly* squambo is other than "Squambo is a regional dish popular in the KY/TN/VA area, and originated in Waco, Kentucky around the 1920's. Traditional versions usually feature meats such as squirrel, opossum, groundhog and coyote."  (  Again with all the weird meats, hehehe.  I found a recipe that was a bit tamer (and meatless!) for us to try tonight.  It was basically a rice and veggie stew, with a little bit of a kick, all topped off with some cheese.  Kind of fun!  And who doesn't like to say squambo?  My crew did and they like dinner as well - Noah even said he doesn't care if I make anything else this week, he is already sure this is going to be his favorite dish from Kentucky.  The kid used the word "love' every other word to describe his feelings about dinner tonight.

I was glad that I had a little bit of time on my hands last night to test run our Kentucky craft project, these super cute egg jockeys.  As any good craftin' Mama knows, you should ALWAYS give it a go before making an attempt with little helpers and through trial and error last night I was able to come up with some better ideas for how the kiddos could put these together.  While we did, we talked about jockeys and how important they were to horse racing.  I did my best to convey to the kiddos that they probably shouldn't aim to become jockeys as most average between 108-118 lbs because for a race like the Derby max load with gear is 126 lbs for a colt and 121 lbs for a filly and only stand between 4'10" and 5'6" on average and my kiddos will definitely be too big.  I also told them how dangerous being a jockey is - life insurance premiums for jockeys are among the HIGHEST for any professional athletes (including football players) and in Australia, being a jockey is considered to be the 2nd most dangerous job, behind only deep sea fishing!  I love my kiddos a little too much to consider letting them 'guide' a 1200lb animal racing around a track at 40 miles an hour without putting up at least a little fuss ;-)  But they both are enamored with horses in general now, and have named their dream horses White Lightning (Kayla) and Cinnastreak (Noah).  I told them they best keep dreaming.  Despite my reservations about them actually becoming jockeys, the egg ones they created turned out super stinkin' cute and will be the perfect decoration for our Derby party on Saturday.

Not exactly sure what tomorrow looks like yet, waiting for a few things to come together and sort themselves out for how the Bean and I plan on spending our day.  But getting excited for Hot Browns tomorrow night (everyone who has any knowledge of Kentucky and heard about this week has asked me if I'm making Hot Browns, guess that means I should get on it!) and our research on the horses that are going to run in the Derby this weekend.  We're going to give them a good look over and each pick our favorite.  I can't wait to attempt to determine what makes a horse special to my twosome :-p  So until then...

Kentucky Fun Fact of the Day:  Thunder Over Louisville is the opening ceremony for the Kentucky Derby Festival and is the world's largest fireworks display.  (Something tells me Noah would rather skip this event...)

My test jockey from last night

Look what we found on our walk home this afternoon!  Spring is in the air!

Grant got home to discover Noah 'teaching' Mikayla to read

Squambo cooking away

Central Kentucky Squambo

Noah and Kayla picked their eggs for their jockeys and I got them assembled

The Bean's face on her jockey

Noah drawing away, too

Painting on his silks

Noah's finished jockey

So proud - this is one of my favorite projects that we've done as they really made them their own!

Mikayla's jockey

This was her saying 'jockey'

Monday, April 28, 2014

My Old Kentucky Home

It’s time to bid a final ‘aloha’ to our tropical paradise in Hawaii and make the long trip back to the contiguous forty-eight to the land of horses, bourbon and bluegrass in Kentucky.  As an added bonus this week, through absolutely no doing of my own (thanks alphabetical order!)  we hit Kentucky during the week when all eyes will be in it for Saturday’s 140th running of the Kentucky Derby!  So pull out your fancy duds and most elaborate hats as we get ready to “Race for the Roses” during our own journey through Kentucky this week.

Kentucky’s nickname is the “Bluegrass State” but don’t worry, the grass isn’t a different hue in Kentucky.  Bluegrass is actually green but has buds that are purple in the spring that can look blue in certain sunlight.  The fields of bluegrass are idea for one of Kentucky’s most prized contributions to the nation; thoroughbred horses.  Kentucky is known for its horse breeding, racing and training facilities.  It is home to Churchill Downs where they run the Kentucky Derby (which is the oldest annual horse race in the nation) as well as the Kentucky Horse Parka 1,032 acre park where visits can learn about the state and its horses, 40 different breeds of which are on display.  Thoroughbreds (which are considered to be the best breed for racing) were brought to Kentucky before it even became a state.

Though I only spent a brief night discussing it with the kiddos, if grasses and horses aren't up your alley (and you’re of age!) a trip to Kentucky may be in order if you enjoy a fine bourbon.  Bourbon is a special bled or whiskey created in Kentucky that is aged in oak barrels for a minimum of two years (for straight bourbon).  The Kentucky Bourbon Trail runs through the state allowing visits to travel to many of the distilleries located in Kentucky.  Another adult product, tobacco, is important to Kentucky’s economy.    Coal mining is also important to the state, though the environmental impacts have led Kentucky to reduce production in the recent years.

But don’t worry, there were plenty of family friendly highlights to  fill my duo in on tonight.  Being the baseball loving family we are, we of course had to discuss the creation of the Louisville Slugger and now we all want to make a trip to Louisville to see the World’s Largest Baseball Bat.  Noah’s currently lobbying for a trip to Mammoth Cave National Park to explore the over four hundred miles of underground caves and caverns.  I think Kayla and I may let the boys do that while we head to Paducah to check out the National Quilt Museum.  We’d all love to go to the Cumberland Gap for some hiking through the beautiful Appalachian Mountains.  The Gap was an integral part of path forged in the 1770’s by Daniel Boone through the mountains that provided an easier means for settlors to explore more of the newly created nation.

Kentuckians are known for loyalty to their state which has produced natives that include presidents, musicians and athletes.  Kentucky is actually the birthplace of two presidents that serve at the same time!  Born less than a year and 100 miles apart. Kentucky is home to the sixteenth president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln and the first and only President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis.  Cassius Clay Jr,  or he is better known as, Muhammad Ali also called Kentucky home.  The state also hand in the creation of Bluegrass Music and is where “The Father of Bluegrass”, Bill Monroe, hails from.  Bluegrass combines blues, gospel and folk music with traditional mountain instruments like the banjo, violin and mandolin.  If you enjoy culinary creations you can thank Kentucky for giving us Colonel Harlan Sanders creator of Kentucky Fried Chicken and famed restaurant reviewer  (and creator of the cake mix) Duncan Hines.

After tonight, my crew is on board for at least a trip to check out the sights in Kentucky (Mikayla wants to move there to have her own horse.  I told her to keep dreaming.)  Stick around this weeks because we’re going to have a great week, culminating to Saturday with a viewing party to take in “the most exciting two minutes in sports”  Should be fun!  In the meantime…

I may have (inadvertently, I swear!) terrified Grant when I began searching for Kentucky recipes for the week.  I came across the following quote regarding a truly Kentucky dish, burgoo and found it necessary to tell him about it "Burgoo...originally a French stew... cooking up the famous dish at festive occasions...800 pounds of meat, one dozen squirrels, 24 gallons corn, 240 pounds fat hens and five bushels of tomatoes--and it usually served hundreds"  I think it was the squirrels that did him in.  I promised to hunt high and low for a recipe that did NOT contain squirrels if he would promise to give it a go ;-)  So tonight for dinner I made Lakes Burgoo which I am happy to report was squirrel free.  My crew really like this (other than the peas, Noah HATES peas!) and it was easy to put together.  I can see what it is used for social occasions in Kentucky - kind of reminded me of the way a chili comes together.  As the article suggested I served them up with some mini corn bread muffins and the end of the Hawaii pineapple (I miss the islands!) and we had quite the feast this evening.

I mentioned yesterday that the dessert that I had in mind for tonight was something that I wanted to make up head of time.  So yesterday during our lazy Sunday afternoon I put together an Old-Fashioned Stack Cake.  My kiddos recently discovered apple butter at Grandma's house (my mom is doing Rachel Ray recipes that she can make ahead and have for the week so she's had all kind of fun stuff at her house!) and fell in love.  So I thought this would not only be a great Kentucky recipe to try out but something everyone would like.  It was a bit labor intensive (and I did half the recipe as the original recipe made 3 6-layer cakes) but something fun to try.  And I'm glad I made it ahead as it gave the chance for the flavors to meld.

I'm anticipating all kind of fun this week so stick around.  Tomorrow Noah has a delayed start (Kayla's finally back in school!) and then I'm going to go in and help out in his class for awhile.  And tomorrow night we're trying another funny sounding food and making our own jockeys out of the rest of our Easter eggs.  (See, I bet that made you curious!) So check back in on us!  Until then...

Kentucky Fun Fact of the Week:  Mammoth Cave is the world's longest cave and was first promoted in 1816, making it the second oldest tourist attraction in the United States. Niagara Falls, New York is first.

Mikayla's reward for a job well done at the grocery store - mani/pedi!

Mixing up the Burgoo

After Noah got home they decided to put on puppet shows for each other

We burgoo - do you?

They invited Daddy to come to the puppet show as well - you can tell how thrilled he was ;-)

Old-Fashioned Stack Cake

Yum yum yum

The Kentucky wall is up!

I let them watch a playing of last year's Derby when we finished up tonight - they were captivated!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Blustery Sunday

The sun is shining in the Hills again today (which I hear might be the last day for awhile that this happens, boo...) so we decided to take full advantage of it yet again.  For quite awhile now Grant and I have been wanting to take the kiddos downtown and check out the Detroit Riverfront area.  We had considered it quite a few times but something else always seemed to come up.  Today we decided to take Sasha for a spin and head down there this morning.  It was a bit chilly and quite windy down by the water but we all decided we were very glad we went and checked it out.  Both kids are already asking to go back to just sit and watch the boats on the river when it gets a bit warmer.  The whole area is beautiful, the paths are nice, there is plenty of seating to just sit and hang out and we even found the playscape.  We told the kiddos they were closer to Canada than home while we walked and that blew their minds.  On the way back, Grant drove through the downtown area to show them some of the sights, including Comerica Park where the Bean got super excited after remembering she is going to be going there thanks to Grandpa Gary.  I forget sometimes that there is a lot to do/see in the city - you tend to hear so much of the negative about Detroit that its plus sides get missed.  It was a great way to spend out morning.

This afternoon was spent hanging out, playing, reading, spending some more time outside and just enjoying our Sunday.  We've been going, going, going as usual and it was nice to just chill today.  For dinner tonight I made Hawaiian Enchiladas which a fun way to wrap up our island adventure this week. I think we'll all be sad to 'leave' Hawaii, but this afternoon as I made up tomorrow's dessert (rumor has it that making it at least a day in advance makes it that much tastier, so check back tomorrow and see if that's true!) I started getting excited about talking about Kentucky this week as well. Especially with the Derby being this week (though absolutely no doing of my own!).  The kids have already started talking about picking horses for the race!  Thing 1 and Thing 2 aced their Hawaii pop quiz so as a treat tonight after dinner we let them watch Leroy and Stitch which is the follow up to Lilo and Stitch.  It was the perfect way to wrap up our evening.

Like I said, check back in tomorrow as we officially launch Kentucky Week!  Looking forward to thoroughbreds, bluegrass and mountains!  So until then...

Hawaii Fun Fact of the Day:  There are no racial or ethnic majorities in Hawaii. Everyone is a minority. Caucasians (Haoles) constitute about 34%; Japanese-American about 32%; Filipino-American about 16% and Chinese-American about 5%. It is very difficult to determine racial identification as most of the population has some mixture of ethnicities.

Looking across the river into Canada

Lighthouse in the park

US Naval Vessel - Pride of Michigan!

Playing at the playscape

Hawaiian Enchiladas

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Sunny Saturday Luau Fun!

The sun has been shining here all day and boy did we Gatchel's take advantage of it!  Grant cleaned out the garage (to make ample room for Sasha) the kids spent a good deal of the day outside, there was a trip to the park, a bike ride with Noah and I (that unfortunately ended in a crash that I will be feeling for the next week or so...) and then some luau fun with the Janoch's tonight.

We also finally opened our Hawaii mail.  The kids loved the postcards my Aunt and Uncle had sent, the vivid pictures made Hawaii that much more real for them, and the fact that they got to read about what Aunt Mary Anne and Uncle Bill were doing (swimming with sea turtles and seeing volcanoes!) was even better.  The latest information I have is that Aunt Mary Anne is awake and stable.  I'm not sure what the plan to get to her is at this point, but she has been able to talk to Uncle Bill and they are trying to set up a time for her to talk to my cousins.  Continued prayers are so appreciated!

Hope that however you spent your Saturday it was just as enjoyable.  Hoping for more sunshine tomorrow!  Until then...

Hawaii Fun Fact of the Day:  The Hawaiian Archipelago consists of over 130 scattered points of land stretching some 1,600 miles in length from the Kure Atoll in the north to the Island of Hawaii in the south.

Hawaiian Buttermilk pancakes anyone?


Cleaning out the garage

Noah and Kayla got mail from Grandpa Gary and found out....

We're going to a Tigers game in August!

The Hawaii scrapbook page is done

The season's first trip to the park

Hawaii mail call!

Looking at their postcards

Had to have Hawaiian punch at our luau tonight

Tess made my favorite - white chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies with cranberries! They were outstanding!