Monday, March 28, 2011

Our Maple Adventure

Tapped Trees

This past Saturday our Primary kids were invited to go learn how to make maple syrup--from beginning to end--at the home of some of the members in our branch (our church congregation) who live out in the boonies on a farm.  I used to love reading about maple syrup making in the Laura Ingalls books, so this was really fun for me to experience.

When we first got there, we learned about boiling the sap down into syrup for a few minutes before we started at the actual beginning.  Did you know it takes 40 gallons of tree sap to get just one gallon of syrup!  No wonder the real stuff can be so expensive!

Bria, as the oldest Primary child in attendance (not that there's many older than her)(I think just one, and it's only by a few months), got to be the keeper of the sap bucket.  Bria?  Bria?  Where did you go?  Don't you know that smoke follows beauty?
Smoke Follows Beauty
Oh, there she is!  Off to the woods to see about tapping some trees...
Bucket GirlInto the Woods
The trees are tapped in early spring, and there's usually only a small window of 3-4 weeks before the trees start devoting all of their energy to producing leaves, so you have to get on it.  Our friends had already tapped lots of trees on their property a few weeks ago.
Tapped TreesMaplesMaple Forest
But they saved one for us to see how it's done.
First you drill a hole.  You can use an auger like they did, or you could use a drill with a large bit.
When you see sap coming, you've gone deep enough.
The Tap
Then you can put the tap into the tree.  Chloe got to help with the hammering.
Hammer HolderSap
See the sap?  It tastes pretty good, but it's mostly water at this point...that's why you have to boil it for so long later.
Once the tap is on, you have to stick a jug of some sort there to collect the sap.
Found One!
Now it's time to collect the sap so we can make some syrup!  Look! Sophia found a jug that's pretty full.
Gathering Sap
Dumping the sap from the smaller jug into the big bucket.
Look at my gorgeous baby!  Did I tell you I registered her for Kindergarten last week?  I know.  What is the world coming to?
Gathering Sap
More sap dumping.  This time Oliver found a jug-ful.  He is Sophia's betrothed.  ;)
Jared and Lucy
Our friend Jared and his daughter Lucy hunting for more jugs ready to be emptied into the bucket.
My Pioneer Girls
It's almost like they are Mary, Laura and Carrie Ingalls, out gathering sap!  Those are my beautiful this picture!
Daddy and Daughter
And there's my handsome Charles, er...I mean, Joel.  (Who is amazingly enough still wearing a BYU hat, despite the disappointing loss to Florida a few days earlier.)

And now we are ready to put the sap into the boiler.  You have to pour it into the strainer first, where it strains the ice out.  This cuts down on boiling time since the sap itself doesn't freeze, only the water in it.

Making Syrup
The sap then goes through a small hole, into the boiler.  If you were to dump the sap straight into the already boiling water/sap, it would lower the temperature too drastically and you'd have to reach a boiling point again.  So draining it in slowly like this keeps things running smoothly.
And then, you wait.  We waited by eating pancakes with maple syrup on top, of course!  We got to bring a jar home and we can't wait to try it on our own pancakes and waffles.

We have a couple maple trees in our yard, and we're seriously considering trying to tap them.  We'll see...we'd probably only get a pint of syrup for all that work, but wouldn't it be so fun?  I guess we'd better get on it...our window is probably nearly over....

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Tea Party


This year, it is my quest to be the awesomest birthday party mom ever.  I started with Bria's 10th birthday party in October, and Chloe's 8th birthday party a couple weeks ago was my second stab at the awesomeness.  Once I do Sophia's 5th birthday party in July, I might be dead, so this is probably going to be the last year of awesomeness.  But I think that it was worth it.

Anyway...Chloe has been wanting to do a doll tea party ever since she got her American Girl doll, so that's what she did.  Alas, I forgot to take pictures of the invitations before I handed them out (probably because, as usual, I procrastinated them until the very last second), but they were really cute.  Trust me.

We went with kind of a cupcake-ish theme, so the favors were made to look like cupcakes, sort of.  Chloe really, really wanted to give the girls an outfit for their dolls, so I made each doll a jacket, scarf and hat.  The hat is like the cupcake (do you see it, or was I delusional in thinking these actually looked like cupcakes?), and inside the box are the jacket and scarf, as well as some lip gloss, a notebook and (of course) some bendy bandz.

I'll have to take some pictures of my girls' dolls wearing their ensembles and post them later...I can't believe I haven't done that yet!

The cake was really tall.  Just for fun.  You'll notice there are no candles on it.  I bought some, and I must have thrown them away with the grocery bags when I got them home, because I couldn't find them anywhere.  Thank goodness for my friend Mary Fran who is prepared for anything, because she had way cuter candles for the cake anyway and saved the day by bringing them.

The cake
We started the party by taking pictures of each girl and her doll.  I quickly edited them and printed them out while Joel supervised cupcake frosting in the kitchen.  These are the pictures of my girls and their dolls:
Chloe and Rebecca
The Birthday Girl and Rebecca
Bria Bri Bri
Bria and her doll, Bri Bri (hers is a look-alike, so of course she named her after herself).
Sophia and Lainie

Sophia and Lainie.

So, like I said, the girls were all in the kitchen frosting some cupcakes while I dealt with photos.  They had a lot of fun doing that, and I was pretty impressed with their creativity, too!

Decorating Cupcakes
After the cupcakes were finished, we moved into the dining room, where they had a blast scrapbooking the pictures of themselves and their dolls.  Seriously, if you want an activity that they don't get sick of quickly, try it sometime.  They lasted over a half hour, which is like a miracle at any birthday party I've ever put on!
The "tablecloth" is just a piece of fabric I had in my stash, and the colors worked well with the party.  Here's a closer look at the tissue paper balls I made to hang over the table.
After scrapbooking, we played a balloon game (which I don't have pictures of) in which they each took turns trying to gather as many balloons as possible while also holding their doll.  They had one minute to do it, and it was hilarious.  At the end, Joel asked if he could have a turn to see if he could beat the winner, who had managed to hold 9 balloons plus her doll.  When he asked for a doll to borrow, he got ELEVEN of them, and good sport that he is, managed to hold all 11 dolls and still gather 10 balloons on top.  You've never heard such squeals of delight.

Here are all the dolls (minus Chloe's) enjoying all of the festivities.  I was totally shocked that all but one girl actually owned an American Girl doll.  Chloe assured me that this was the case, but I didn't believe her until they all walked in my front door.  And the one girl that didn't have a doll?  Her mom told me that she has never had a doll because she prefers to play with dragons and trucks.  Hence, the teddy bear.

All The Dolls
Chloe with her cake (now bedecked with super cute candles).  I just love this girl...isn't she adorable?
I just love this girl
Chloe opening her gifts with Rebecca at her side.
Opening GiftsA Pillow-Pet!
Oh dear, she got a Pillow Pet.  I was trying to avoid that, but oh, well!  She loves it!

This time I didn't have to make up games on the fly at all, thanks to the scrapbooking  being such a hit.  And they just played with their dolls at the end.  It was a successful party, if a bit exhausting (and I'm talking about the three days of straight sewing...even though I'd had the fabric for over a month!).

Anything for my girl, though.

Happy Birthday, Chloe!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The List

I think one of the most painful times of my entire life (and I mean painful as in painful/awkward, not painful/tragic, FYI) was the space between coming home from my mission and meeting my future husband.  Ugh.  I had sort of dated this one guy before I left, but I already had my papers in and stuff so it never got really serious, and we hardly wrote or anything.  Anyway, he asked me out two days after I got back and it was a really terrible date because I was probably the most boring person in the entire world, having just spent the prior 18 months doing nothing but teaching the Gospel in Romania.

There were plenty of dates after that, and they were equally as painful, for various reasons.  There were the dates with the desperate, slightly creepy, guys from my new singles ward.  The ones that swoop in as soon as any new girl shows up.  There were the dates with the guys that just came up to me in the cafeteria or the bookstore and asked for my number (and yes, I was really too nice.  I know that now) who I had absolutely nothing in common with.  There were the dates with guys who really were quite fun, but, you know....just no spark.

When I met Joel, who was not desperate or slightly creepy, and with whom I had plenty in common and quite a spark, I think I breathed a rather large sigh of relief, because I knew that this was it.  No more of the college dating game!  I had absolutely no desire to ever, ever relive that portion of my life.  Ever.

Which is what makes Melanie Jacobson's new book, The List, so fun to read.  We've all been there (and we are hopefully no longer there, but if we are, well, hopefully it will be over soon)(unless, of course, you don't want it to be) and we can now look back and laugh.  And I did just that.  I laughed a lot while reading this book, because Melanie is funny (which, if you read her blog, you already know, and if you don't, well, you should) and therefore her characters are rather witty, too.

Now, when Melanie asked me to review this book, she told me that it was pure fluff and entertainment.  That there would be no improving of minds or teaching of lessons.  While it was definitely a very fun read and I did laugh a lot (did I already mention that?) I have to say that she was a little bit wrong.  There was quite a bit of lesson teaching going on in this book.  For instance, there were surfing lessons taught, several cooking lessons (and I'm still dying to try the grilled cheese sandwich), and there were even a few life lessons, too.

But I can't tell you what they are just now, because I do want you to read the book and see for yourself.  I will say that I have been inspired to start a "before I turn 40" list.  Completing it is probably a different story, but I'd like to try.

Now, if you want to read this book, you can buy it in book-form here and in Kindle-form here.

Also, because Melanie is just that cool, she's been doing some pretty amazing giveaways surrounding this book release.  Alas and alack, I have missed most of them because I have been rather absent in blogland lately, but the latest one is almost as cool as the Shabby Apple dresse I missed winning last week.  Go and enter!  You could even win the actual book, too.

Not sure if you want to read this book?  You can go to Melanie's author website here and read the first chapter there.  And then you'll like it so much that you'll have to run out and buy it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Lion, the Witch and the Never-Ending Winter

Yesterday marked the beginning of spring, whatever that is.

We got the fabled St. Patrick's Day storm instead.  More snow.  Just what I wasn't hoping for.

Sometimes I think the White Witch must live around here...and speaking of the White Witch, you are all just so smart.  Weeks ago  you guessed Narnia, and then I never posted an answer.  Of course, you were right.  Narnia did indeed win the Winter Carnival sculpture contest...


I have about a foot and a half of snow in my yard still....think it'll melt before April?  Looking at the weather forecast, it looks unlikely, but I will keep my fingers crossed anyway.

While I'm waiting for the spring, don't forget to go enter my book giveaway for Miss Delacourt Has Her Day!

Happy Monday!