Saturday, July 13, 2019

Salads for a Graduation Party and Summer

For Sophia's graduation party, I made three salads to go along with the fried and grilled chicken, fresh fruits, Chex Mix, chips, beverages, and desserts.

It was a hot day, so we used the "ice pools" that we found at Menards for a couple of dollars to keep the salads cold.

The inflatable pools, as seen above, were about five feet long and less than a half foot high; and were filled with ice. The bowls of salads, fruits, and beverages were nestled into the ice so everything would stay cold (which it did!) on the 94-degree day (with a heat index of over 100 degrees).

The salads I made were tabouli, coleslaw, and broccoli salad. Out of the three salads, the broccoli salad was the most popular. We had barely any leftovers. We got compliments on all three salads, though, and would make them all again.

I realized after the party that I forgot to take photos of the tabouli and coleslaw. I found images online of both salads that look very similar to what I made.



1 cup bulgar wheat or couscous
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups water
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup extra virgin oil
1 teaspoon crushed garlic (or more to taste)
Fresh chopped mint leaves (to taste)
1 green pepper, chopped
1 cucumber, chopped
2-3 tomatoes, chopped
1 cup parsley, chopped
6 scallions, chopped
1 package crumbled feta cheese
1 jar Kalmata olives (or plain black olives…whatever you prefer)


Boil water. Add bulgar wheat or couscous and salt. Cover and soak for 15-20 minutes. Drain off any excess water.

Fluff with a fork and add lemon juice, extra virgin oil, garlic, and mint leaves. Stir. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Then add green pepper, cucumber, tomatoes, parsley, and scallions.

Garnish with feta cheese and olives. (However, you can add this when you add the fresh vegetables if you plan on eating the whole salad in one sitting.)



2 packages pre-cut coleslaw mix
1 15-ounce jar Jimmy’s coleslaw dressing
1 15-ounce jar Litehouse coleslaw dressing


Pour coleslaw mix in bowl. Add both jars of dressing and mix well. If you aren’t going to eat that much coleslaw, mix the two jars of dressing together and add some dressing to the amount of coleslaw you will eat. Start with a little dressing and add more as needed.

Broccoli Salad


2 ½ cups chopped fresh broccoli
½ cup raisins
¼ cup sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons diced red onions (or more to your preference)
1/3 package of bacon (cooked and cut in small pieces)
1 cup Miracle Whip
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar


Combine broccoli, raisins, sunflower seeds, onions, and bacon in a bowl. Toss until well-mixed. In another bowl, mix the Miracle Whip, vinegar, and sugar. Taste the dressing and adjust to your preference. Combine the two bowls of ingredients; and mix well.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Gift Card and Money Wreath

One of the gifts that we gave Sophia for graduation was a gift card and money wreath. 

The idea came from a pin on Pinterest. It's a simple gift to make. You need:

- a wire wreath (look in the floral area)
- 9 $5 bills (or whatever denomination you prefer)
- 9 gift cards
- tiny clothespins
- scotch tape

To assemble the wreath, simply clip the money or gift cards onto the wire wreath using the tiny clothespins. For the thicker cards that are on cardstock, I taped the cards to the wreath and then used the clothespins as decoration. 

The gift cards are ones that are for businesses that are near Sophia's college: Wal-Mart, McDonalds, Burger King, Starbucks, Kohl's, Caribou Coffee, Dominoes, Target, and AMC Movie Theater.

She was very excited about this gift; and I know that each of the cards and cash will be used.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Red, White, and Blue Salad

For quite a while, I've had a pin on my 4th of July Pinterest board for the Red, White, and Blue Sweet Summer Salad.

Last week, I finally made it and it was delicious! Everyone (except Olivia who doesn't like salads) enjoyed it. I would definitely make it again.

The recipe for the Red, White, and Blue Sweet Summer Salad comes from Green Lite Brites. It takes about 5 minutes of prep time. Although there are measurements noted for the salad, I didn't follow them. I used enough lettuce for a meal for our family; and then enough blueberries, strawberries, and feta cheese to make it look festive.

Here's the more precise recipe for one serving:


3-4 cups of fresh romaine lettuce cleaned and torn (I used a lettuce combination in a bag)
About 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
About 1/2 cup fresh strawberries cut in small chunks
1 ounce (28g) Crumbled Feta
1 tablespoon poppyseed dressing


Wash and prepare all your ingredients.

Top the greens with the berries and cheese.

Drizzle on the dressing and enjoy!

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

My Favorite Photos - June 2019

June went by so quickly. It started out with Olivia and I going on a hike at Interstate State Park in Wisconsin on June 1st - a free-admittance day to state parks. We had never been to this park so we enjoyed driving around and hiking.

There were interesting rock formations left by glaciers. The one below looked like a person (near the top)...or at least we thought it did.

Some of the rocks were huge. I had Olivia stand between a couple of rocks to give a size comparison. She is about 4'9" - so they're tall rocks.

On June 3rd, the tulips were still blooming. There were some purple ones under the pine trees - though I think a mole ate the majority of the bulbs I planted. Aspen is relaxing on what was the limited amount of grass in the backyard. Over half the backyard, at that point, was mud, dirt, and straw thanks to the fire and flooding we had in May and June 2018; and all the construction vehicles that dug up the yard.

The 3rd also marked the day we got two dump trucks of black dirt delivered; and one dump truck full of recycled cement/tar/sand for the driveway. Cooper isn't sure what to make of the big piles of dirt.

On June 6th and 7th, we laid 280 rolls of sod. It covered most of the area that was dirt and mud.

A week later, we laid the remaining 140 rolls of sod. It was very hard work. 

We were basically incapacitated after each day of laying sod. Ice packs and Ibuprofen were necessary for us to use just to get the backyard finished.

Sophia and I took a SAORI weaving course at the art center. We've taken quite a few together now. This time she wanted to make a scarf, so she used blues and greens.

This month also was a month that Sophia received multiple scholarships. The hard work that she invested in writing and submitting them paid off, and her first year of college now is paid for through scholarships, grants, and work study. She was able to decline one loan and may be able to decline a second one - meaning her first year she will have NO student loan debt!

Some of the scholarship providers had special events to congratulate the winners. One of them, through a local hospital, had a very nice event - complete with a cake. Sophia's name is in the bottom row - second from the left.

My sister and her son; and Sophia, Olivia, and I went to Burnet Dairy Days. This was a fun free event that had a TON of samples. They had a wide variety of cheeses, ice cream cones, pizza, sandwiches from their restaurant, pop, milk, and more. We all said that we would go back again next year.

Later that day, we went to the humane society where Sophia played the harp for the dogs waiting to be adopted.

One, in particular, was very attentive when it came to listening to harp music. Bear, the dog, was so adorable and polite. He was fascinated with the harp.

Another dog, Goo-sul, was one of the dogs who was rescued from the South Korean meat trade. He was a very affectionate dog who wanted to be right next to me. I really enjoyed spending time with these two dogs. There was another one, too, who had a huge grin her face the entire time. I've never seen a dog smile as big as she did.

By June 18th, the robin had laid four eggs in the nest and was spending time sitting on the eggs. Periodically, she would fly off and then return...perhaps to eat. By July 2nd, the babies had already left the nest. I looked it up and found out that babies are ready to fledge two weeks after they are born.

This is an odd photo to include in "favorites" for the month. It's Sophia the day after her surgery to get her wisdom teeth out. The surgery was a very complex one. The oral surgeon said that on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most complex, her procedure was between an 8 to 9. Of course. Things can't be easy.

She bravely dealt with the pain which was more intense than a normal procedure. She has two ice packs on either side of her face and a blanket over her face since she head a serious headache. The recovery time is 4-6 weeks, so she should be in better shape by mid-July to early-August.

A major change this month was the painting of the barn. This is one of the last major projects that was part of the fire damage/rebuilding process. Since May 5, 2018, we have either looked at a burned barn or a barn that had primed boards on it. This is the before photo when the guys started working on it during the third week of June.

This is a photo of it after it was done. What a change! I cannot even begin to tell you how uplifted my spirits are when I look outside at the painted barn. I don't think it has ever looked this good. Seriously.

We've been seeing a lot of does and fawns recently. For some reason, they are walking around and crossing the roads during the day. These little twins were grazing by the side of the road. The mother was nearby in the woods watching them. After a few quick photos, they ran back into the woods to their mother.

Another thing we are seeing a ton of are little American Toads. Every summer, we see hundreds of these for a while. I looked up some information about these little toads. On Ask a Naturalist, I found out that these "newly metamorphosed toadlets...are so tiny compared to the adult toads. We don’t for example, see mini-bullfrogs.

"The tadpoles of many species of the genus Bufo (what most people consider to be the “true toads”) metamorphose at a very small size, often all at once, and then disperse. If you live near a pond or lake or stream where the tadpoles are common, you might all of a sudden see dozens or even hundreds of these tiny toadlets for a few days, and after that, see them only occasionally."

During the fourth week of June, we scrambled to get the final touches on the yard and home since we were hosting Sophia's high school graduation party on June 29th (which also happened to be my birthday).

Despite a 95-degree day with high humidity and dewpoint, we had a great turnout. People stayed to eat a meal; talk with neighbors, friends, and family; and look at the gardens and repairs made after the fire. This is Sophia by her cake. She picked purple and silver for her homeschool colors.

Larry and Maureen are family friends who made the trip up from Winona. They knew my parents since the 1960s; and would have been my parents had something happened to my parents when I was a minor. So, having them at both the graduation ceremony last month and the party this month meant a lot to me. They are closest people I have to parents since both of mine no longer are living (they died in 2012 and 2015).

One of the gifts that Olivia and I made for Sophia was a money cake. I saw the idea on Pinterest and wanted to make one for Sophia. It was a rather time-consuming project, but she really liked it.

I also gave her this gift card/money wreath. The gift cards are to places near where she will be attending college in the Fall. The extra money is to give her a bit of spending money on campus or if she goes out.

In closing,  as I look back on June, I'm so happy when I think about the flowers that were blooming around our farm. The lavender has been doing well.

These are flowers that are in a container with moss roses. They bloom prolifically.

We planted a lot of purple flowers since that was one of the colors Sophia picked for her homeschool colors. The catmint, below, is attracting bees.

The shrub rose is doing well this year. There are quite a few red buds on it.

This is an annual that I found unusual. I love the hundreds of tiny white petals and the circular center.

More flowers are ready to bloom in July. I'm looking forward to seeing how the flower gardens change during the upcoming month; and how colorful they will become.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Outdoor Mom's Journal - June 2019

During our outdoor time this month we Interstate State Park in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, on June 1st. There was a lake that was carved out by a glacier thousands of years ago.

There were sections in the forest that were covered in moss. It was really pretty.

The St. Croix River was relatively calm.

The rocks were quite large. As a size comparison - Olivia is about 4'9" tall.

In the nature center, there were interesting exhibit and taxidermy.

On June 14th, my sister, Sophia, Olivia, and my nephew (Colton) went to a nature center at Crex Meadows State Wildlife Area. There were too many mosquitoes, so we opted to spend time inside instead.

There was a juvenile black bear. My sister is a little over 5' tall, so the bear is probably about six feet tall on its hind legs.

There was an interesting display of waterfowl and mammals typically seen in the area.

There was an area of raptors and other birds.

A drawer had a different types of squirrels and other small mammals. We have been seeing a lot of red and gray squirrels. The size difference is more substantial than I thought.

The most inspiring thing we experienced was...
having a variety of flowers blooming for Sophia's graduation party on June 29th. There was a lot of color and types of flowers for guests to look at when they came to the party. We have two lavender plants this year. The leaves are more fragrant than the purple flowers.

Our peonies bloomed this year which I was so happy about! Olivia and two of my nieces weeded the peony bed which also has tiger lilies in it. For the party, the peonies were in full bloom.

Our outdoor time made us ask (or wonder about)...whether a rock formation was naturally made or human made. When Olivia and I were on a hike at Interstate State Park, we came across this rock formation. At the top of the cliff, there looks like there's a profile of a face to me.

I'm not sure if it was carved like that or if it was naturally formed. Someday I'll find out.

In the garden, we are planting...various annuals and perennials. This is an annual that we had last year that grew to be over three feet tall. I'm hoping that this year's plants grow the same height. They were really eye-catching under the pine tree in the backyard.

I added nature journal pages about...I am keeping up-to-date with my Nature Observer journal. Each day, there is a small space to write on a calendar things in nature that I want to remember. Then there's a larger amount of space to write about a half dozen sentences about what happened that day and what I saw in nature.

This has been such a great way to pay attention to what is happening outside each day. I've enjoyed going back and reading what I've written since it triggers memories of seeing and hearing what I've written about.

I am reading...
issues of Birds and Blooms that were given to me. I love seeing the beautiful photos of the birds and learning about the different plants that benefit both birds and butterflies.

I am dreaming about…
seeing more of the gardens in bloom. I also am thinking about hiring a local farmer to mow the pastures so they look nicer and there's more grass available for the horses. The goldenrod has taken over both pastures. When the sheep lived here, they kept it looking like a golf course. We don't need it quite that trimmed...just enough so there's more for the horses to eat since they don't eat goldenrod.

A photo I would like to share...
one more photo of some flowers around our farm. These flowers are in a little container garden that also has moss roses - favorite flowers of my parents.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Ice Cream Sandwiches

Many years ago I clipped a recipe from a free church cookbook for Ice Cream Sandwiches. On Memorial Day, I thought it would be a fun treat for the holiday and what was going to be a picnic. (It rained, so we ate indoors.)

The recipe is simple:

1 egg
1/2 cup shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 package devil's food cake mix
1/2 cup butter, softened
Ice cream (any flavor)

To make the cookie part of the ice cream sandwiches, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Beat the egg, shortening, butter, and half of the cake mix until smooth. Then stir in the remaining cake mix until smooth.

Roll out the dough and cut into any desired shape or square. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Poke fork holes in when they are fresh out of the oven.

Put ice cream between two cookies and freeze.

Note: for a softer cookie, bake for 8 minutes and let the cookie sit on the sheet for a minute or two. We baked the cookies closer to 10 minutes which makes for a firmer cookie which is different from the softer store-bought ice cream sandwiches. Either way, they taste great!