Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Happy as a Rhode Island Clam

Brrrr!  I knew it was bound to happen (though not for too long if the forecast is to be believed) but some true Fall weather settled in this morning and I'm pretty sure we never made it out of the 50's here today.  No worries though as that made it the perfect morning to hang at home and get my (limited skilled!) baking on with my wonderful friend, Amber.  And with a whole bagful of apples from Sunday's adventure, her suggestion to try our hand at these Apple Hand Pies sounded good to me!  Amber has more skills in her pinky when it comes to baking than I do in my whole being I believe, and I was happy that she and A came to hang out and play in the kitchen this morning.  We tried the pies a few different ways (not all 'successful' according to pretty standards) but we had a good time doing it.  I don't think I'd run out and make this specific recipe again as we both agreed that the dough was a little weird.  Lots and lots of butter which almost made it like working with sugar cookie dough.  The filling was simple (kind of hard to mess up apple pie filling, though) and we did have enough to put together an extra full size pie which we have plans to share with the MOPS girls at a playdate next week.  What a great way to spend the morning!

The fun didn't stop there as shortly after Amber left Tess and A arrived.  The girls had lunch, Tess and I got to catch up (after girl time with both Amber and Tess today I think my sanity is closer to normal than it has been in awhile :-p) and then A stayed to play with the Bean while Tess had some things to do.  I had two girls dressing up and playing "Pixie Hollow" contentedly for the rest of the afternoon.  They so make my heart smile.  A has been referring to Kayla as her sister and it makes me melt every time.  How blessed we are to have such great friends!

I picked up Noah from the bus where he was full of news about his first field trip of the year to the Plymouth Apple Orchard.  Poor kiddo accidentally grabbed the wrong lunch out of the fridge this morning (bad Mom for not double checking until noon when I opened the fridge and made the discovery) but fortunately it all got worked out.  (He did have lunch - just not the brown sack one I had specifically put together for his trip.  He grabbed the pre-made box that was supposed to be for tomorrow.  Oops!)  Anyway, despite the cold he had a good trip.

Over the week you'll be seeing this week's Rhode Island project since it's going to take us a few days to get it done, but I wanted to give you a sneak peek. As I mentioned in yesterday's blog, my favorite (and what turned out to be everyone else's favorite besides Mikayla who is all about Westminster Arcade) thing about Rhode Island is the Big Blue Bug.  So that's what we're making!  I'm basing it (loosely) on this idea and letting the kids go to town.  We started work on painting some blue bug bodies today, so be looking for our progress!

The kiddos also got some un-state project related mail today.  My sister Shell's Mom-in-Law, Stephanie, so kindly sent them very cool Halloween gloves which I now cannot get them to take off.  You are wonderful, Stephanie (and Bella as well!) thanks so much for spoiling the Dynamic Duo!

For dinner tonight I made Rhode Island Clam Chowder.  I have to admit, I'd heard of New England Clam (white) chowder and Manhattan (Red) Clam Chowder, but never this clear Rhode Island variety before.  But you know the Bean and her love of seafood, so I decided to give it a go.  My advice is if you're not a real seafood lover, stick with one of the other varieties that tend to mask those flavors a little bit as this is definitely clam heavy.  To go with it I made some Corn Fritters which are a common side dish for clam bakes in Rhode Island.  I will admit to tweaking the recipe a little bit by adding a touch more sugar and using frozen corn, but these got a thumbs up otherwise.  I had made some homemade applesauce (gotta get through those apples!) earlier in the day that rounded the whole meal out quite nicely.  And with those lovely pies we made earlier for dessert - everyone around here was 'as happy as a clam' (Nope, just couldn't resist.)

School for both kiddos tomorrow, I'm getting a massage(!!), I have a feeling the "We've Been There" state should take about 2 seconds and it's a cake from Johnny on tomorrow night's menu along with a cabinet you can drink for dessert.  Should be interesting!  So until then...

Rhode Island Fun Fact of the Day:  Newport became famous as the summer capital of high society in the mid-19th century.

The Bean and A helped in the kitchen this morning!

They may not have looked beautiful but it didn't matter a bit as to how they tasted :)


Fairy on the loose in my house! With some SUPER scary hair

Mail call!

Noah reading the note

Cool Halloween gloves!  Thanks Miss Stephanie!

Working on some blue bug pieces

Fritters frying away

Rhode Island Clam Chowder

Dinner is served

Monday, September 29, 2014

On the Road to Rhode Island

Forty-Eight miles by Thirty-Seven miles.  That’s what I’m working with this week.  Remember my lack of fondness for North Dakota after I spent a ridiculous amount of time searching for what made it unique?  Well, Rhode Island has given it a tiny run for its money.  And after the plethora of information on Pennsylvania last week it was a bit of a struggle really getting into Rhode Island.  But, each state is unique and special (or so it has been my mission to teach the Dynamic Duo!) so I’m motoring on through “The Ocean State” (geesh I could walk across it in a day!) this week, or as it is officially called The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.  So if you’re ready, grab a coffee milk or get a quick drink from the bubbler, dust off your tennis racket and grab the big blue bug spray as we head off on a Rhode Island adventure!

My “Teeny Beanie” will probably be the easiest Gatchel to sway on board the Rhode Island train this week when I tell her that she can thank Rhode Island for the first indoor mallBuilt in 1828 in Providence, the Arcade is the nation’s oldest indoor shopping mall.  Rhode Island is also hope to Ann & Hope (now known as Curtain and Bath Outlet) which is thought to be a pioneer in what are now termed ‘big box marts’.  Ann & Hope was one of the first self-service department stores, in which customers could look at items without sales personnel, and also was one of the first to use shopping carts in a department store (thanks Oklahoma!).  Ann & Hope had a full-service cafeteria, a parking lot (not common in the 1950’s) and a very liberal return policy.  A trip to an Ann & Hope store in 1961 is said to be the inspiration behind Sam Walton’s Wal-Mart and Harry Cunningham’s K-Mart.  So shoppers unite – Rhode Island has plenty to like!

To sway Noah, I’d usually use sports, but this may prove to be a little difficult this week.  Rhode Island has no major professional teams so to speak, and its largest sports ‘claim to fame’ is the fact that it is home to the International Tennis Hall of Fame.  Located in Newport, the grounds include a museum, grass tennis courts, an indoor tennis facility, and a court tennis (or real tennis) facilityThe Hall has played host to the U.S. National Championship since 1881.  That tournament evolved into the US Open. The Hall of Fame Tennis Championships remains the only professional tournament played on grass in North America.  So not sure that tennis is up Noah’s alley, but that’s what Rhode Island has to offer!

I’m the music buff around here so the fact that one of Rhode Island’s most notable residents is responsible for giving us “Give My Regards to Broadway”, “Over There”, “The Yankee Doodle Boy” and “You’re A Grand Old Flag” is enough for me.  George M. Cohan, (who may or may not have been born on the 4th of July, depending on which story you believe) hails from Providence, where his parents were travelling vaudeville performers that he joined on-stage almost as soon as he could walk.  He was one of the founding members of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and is seen as an early pioneer of the ‘book musical’ (a musical play where songs and dances are fully integrated into a well-made story).  Did someone say musical?  Silly me complaining about Rhode Island before!

I had three words for Grant – White Horse Tavern.  Located in Newport, (and still running to this day), America’s oldest tavern was opened in 1673.  The tavern served as a meeting place for  the Colony’s General Assembly, Criminal Court and City Council in its early years.  I knew I also may be able to sway him with mention of Del’s Lemonade.   Famous for their ‘soft-served frozen lemonade’  the Cranston based company was opened in 1948 as a small push-cart stand which morphed into "Del's Trucks" which were to serve the beverage anywhere in the state. The company still uses the trucks today in addition to its storefront locations which can be found worldwide.  And honestly, I’m not too worried about Grant – when he hears about the State Beverage he’ll be completely onboard this week.
History is important, too, of course and for that it’s important that from Rhode Island I teach my crew about Roger Williams and Slater MillWilliams was the founder of Rhode Island who, believe it or not, left the settlements in Plymouth and Salem Massachusetts due to religious persecution.  (Come on, I can’t be the only one that finds it completely ironic that people left England and landed in Plymouth for this same reason!) He is well known for the friendly relationships and bonds he formed with some of the Native American tribes and is sometimes credited for inspiring men like Thomas Jefferson who borrowed Williams’ words “A hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world.” in regards to the separation of Church and StateSlater Mill was established by Samuel Slater who is known as the "Father of the American Factory System.” for bringing principles of the Industrial Revolution from Great Britain to the United States.  Since its inception, Slater Mill has been home to the production of everything from jewelry to coffin trimmings, plants for cardboard, and bicycles.  It is most famous for its original purpose as a cotton mill, where it was part of the establishment of America’s textile industry.

So it looks like one way or the other, I’ve got the whole gang involved and on board for Rhode Island week.  And just in case, I saved the best for last.  A drive down I-95 near Newport just may give you a glimpse of one of Rhode Island’s most recognizable residents – the Big Blue Bug.  Mascot for Big Blue Bug Solutions ‘Nibbles Woodaway’ claims to be the world's largest artificial bug at 928 times the size of an actual termite and perches on top of the store, standing 9 feet and 58 feet long and weighs in at 4,000 pounds.  They do change up the appearance of the bug (my personal favorite is the tie he wore in 2012 when the company renamed itself) which has made appearances on Oprah, The Daily Show and even Family Guy.  This is what I’ve been reduced to I have to include giant bugs on our Famous For list!

Oddly enough, I had no trouble at all setting my menus for this week.  There were lots of very distinct and “Rhode Island specific that I wanted to tackle this week.  I decided to start off with an iconic Rhode Island dish, Dynamites.  The author of the recipe says “A Rhode Island exclusive. Kind of like a Sloppy Joe but far superior.”  I found lots of references to this Rhode Island classic and figured it was a good kick-off for a busy Monday night.  (Really don’t like the timing of religious ed classes….).  I also made Rhode Island’s official state drink, Coffee Milk, tonight.  (Which is perfect because in a moment of throw back - Happy National Coffee Day!)  I raced over to get Noah while Grant and Kayla chowed down and then set my sights on making a Rhode Island Blueberry Slump for dessert tonight.   Believe it or not, I've made a blueberry slump before (could have been National Blueberry Day, don't remember...)  Anyway,  kind of think cobbler, but "Early attempts to adapt the English steamed pudding to the primitive cooking equipment available to the Colonists in New Englans resulted in the grunt and the slump, a simple dumpling-like pudding (basically a cobbler) using local fruit. Usually cooked on top of the stove.  In Vermont, Maine, and Rhode Island, the dessert was referred to as a slump." (http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/CobblerHistory.htm)  It's a really easy dish to put together and I had planned to make it tomorrow night, but I have a feeling something apple and delicious courtesy of a morning hang-out session with the amazing Amber will be on tap instead!

So I have everyone in my house convinced we can make it through Rhode Island this week – how about you?  Stick around tomorrow when Noah goes on his first field trip of the year and I make the first of three seafood based recipes for the week (Kayla is so excited!)  So until then…

Rhode Island Fun Fact of the Day:  Rhode Island has no county government. It is divided into 39 municipalities each having its own form of local government.

Rhode Island is up and running

A four year old shouldn't have to work this hard....

Poor NJ had to eat dinner by himself as soon as he got off the bus to make it to class (he didn't complain)

My coffee syrup


Coffee Milk

Rhode Island Dinner to start us off

Slump starts like this...

And ends like this

And is dished up like this

And gets the perfect finish like this!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

You're Gonna Hear Us ROAR!

Tigers Win!!!!!  (Did you really think I could start this post any other way tonight?)  If nothing else, perhaps to add Lions Win!!!! (And no, I STILL don't want to discuss the Wolverines)  Order seems restored to the world today by a ALCD Title back in Mo-Town for the fourth consecutive year. It's been a rough season, but bring on the Orioles starting on Thursday!  World Series bound baby!

The only thing around here that could have been more exciting today - heading to MacQueen's in Toledo for some apple picking with my fabulous parents.  It's been since Labor Day since we've had the chance to see them, so we took advantage of yet another beautiful day given to us by Mother Nature to head to the Orchard and grab some yummy apples straight from the source.  I have grand plans, apples!  A stop for ice cream let us all catch up for awhile which was nice.  And we were flipping back and forth between radio stations the whole way home listening to both Detroit victory parties.  Ah, what a great way to spend a Sunday!

We got home in time for once last Pennsylvania dinner of Pennsylvania Dutch Pork Chops and Grandma's Cracker Dressing. When I came across this dressing recipe I thought it was interesting and we just had to try it out.  Everyone was weirded out (but enjoyed it!) that it smelled like saltine crackers but didn't have a similar texture.  At all.  But it was agreed that the whole dinner was a 'make it again' so it's all good!

As one last Pennsylvania treat for good behavior today, I made Kettle Corn which like a whole lot of other recipes this week, has ties back to the Pennsylvania Dutch.  Is there anything these people didn't come up with?  My crew agrees they've eaten pretty good in Pennsylvania this week!

It's another full week here at the Gatchel's (hmm, imagine that!) as we start off on our adventure through the nation's tiniest state - Rhode Island.  (To be read, Kristi struggles a bit yet again to teach the kids something other than "it's really small")  But we'll manage I'm sure.  I'll be back tomorrow to tell you all about it, so until then...

Pennsylvania Fun Fact of the Day:  The Rockville Bridge in Harrisburg is the longest stone arch bridge in the world. 

Think they were a little excited to see Grandma and Papa?

Picking away

Elevator up!

Oh no, the apple tree ate Noah!

Thanks for the pumpkins Grandma and Papa!

It's almost as big as she is

Ice Cream!

Pennsylvania Dutch Pork Chops

Grandma's Cracker Dressing

Dinner time!

Trying our hand at some kettle corn


Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Super Saturday

Today needs nothing but pictures!  What a fabulously awesome day full of superheroes celebrating birthdays, chocolate cake, pumpkin fest, a new pet, Crayola fabulousness, football (no, I don't want to talk about the Michigan game) AND baseball - yep one great Gatchel day!

Apple picking with my awesome parents tomorrow and wrapping up Pennsylvania week!  So until then...

Pennsylvania Fun Fact of he Day:

Cinderella ready to go this morning (she insisted on the wig - it lasted all of 30 seconds once we got to the party)

Ironman joined Cinderella

Lots of fun!

Grant tried on the wig...

4 very cool super heroes on the teeter totter

Happy Birthday to Henry!

Grant and Ironman on the teeter totter


You think they had fun???

Pumpkin Festival in South Lyon!

Fun at the Pumpkin Festival

Making some fun recycled crafts

Time to play some games

Paws was there!

Aunt Shell, this one's for you!

Our favorite gourd carving guy was there

More games

Noah won a fish!

Had to support the local crafts people - Frozen bow

Michigan bookmark (and I got some amazing smelling tarts for my scentsy I can't wait to try out)

Noah starting work on his other Crayola project for the week

Grant and Kayla worked on her butterfly

Noah hard at work

I may have to invest in a new cheese grater...  This required me getting out the toothbrush for some heavy duty scrubbing tonight

Noah shaved crayon art!

Meet Squirmy!

Best Pennyslvania Dutch Chicken Corn Soup (the boys both really liked this)

Dinner time!

Kayla's finished project