If you're looking for Olson family updates, then visit our family blog, I Love You Same.

The rants and recipes found here are solely mine.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Sunday in the Woods

My dad built a log cabin. What a short sentence to sum up the work this took! He chose a beautiful setting, surrounded by sugar maples, birch, and oaks. My favorite time of year to visit the log cabin is in the fall.

In fact, I think my favorite time of year is the fall. The change in the weather, the leaves, back to school, the way I cook after a summer of grilling-- I love it all.

Every year, we make a special trip to the cabin to celebrate my son's birthday. We spend the day with his best friend, hiking through the woods, walking on the country road picking "agates" (to them every pretty rock is a treasure!), and trying to spot critters. This year, was an unseasonably warm day, but the leaves were glorious.

We saw a Bald Eagle hunting, an amazing bright green tree frog, a Shamrock Orb Weaver Spider. We collected giant fern leaves, discovered mushrooms in amazing colors of pink and yellow, and were able to get up close and personal with a tree that a black bear had been scratching on.

The kids were able to shoot a pellet gun, setting up elaborate targets. They climbed trees, got dirty, knocked over dead trees, lifted giant logs searching for salamanders, and just generally enjoyed the outdoors. They picked up garbage off the road from careless passerbys and identified many animal tracks (some, I even think they got right!) It got me thinking about the number of kids who never get to see and experience a woods or grandpa's farm or spend a day out in nature. And, while thinking of this, and watching the sheer joy and smiles on the boys' faces, it made me just a little sad.

As cities grow larger and families become busier, will many children grow up nature deprived? Will they have no thought for our green spaces and before we know it, will the importance of the outdoors be lost on a generation? Something to think about. I know there are books written about this, but the reality of it really hit home this weekend.

Enjoy the pictures!

Friday, September 14, 2007

This Week's Five

Sight: Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

I support library book sales and libraries in any way that I can. This book was purchased at a small town library book sale. Every once in a while, I need to read something that's just fluff. I thought this would be a nice, light read, predictable, but fun. And that's exactly what it was. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Sound: Some Hearts by Carrie Underwood

I get a lot of grief for loving just about any music that I lay my ears on. On any given day, depending on my mood, I'll listen to bluegrass, folk, classical, rock, hard rock, pop, punk, Broadway, country--you name it, I'll listen to it. Catch me mad or having to scrub something and I might just be blasting Aerosmith. Need some energy, I'll pop in some Wynonna. Feeling sad, I just might look to Barbra Streisand for a little inspiration. This week, I've been tackling some much needed cleaning and organizing around the house. Carrie has been the best, sing-along-and-clean music I've heard in a long time.

Scent: Lemon scented ammonia.

It's 50 degrees outside and I've got the windows open, the music blaring, and I'm stripping my kitchen floor. It's really more ammonia than lemon, and my sinuses have sure got a workout! I'm halfway through the job and wondering why I decided to do this today!

Taste: Double Fudge Brownies

Touch: My new Baker's Edge pan!

If you love the edge cut of your favorite bar recipe, you've got to get one of these!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Apples to Applesauce

My father had hundreds of apple trees. Challenged by an advisor who claimed he'd never grow apples as far North as we lived, he successfully created a beautiful and bountiful orchard. As a child, I helped plant the trees, prune them, mow around them, pick the apples, and sort and sell them. It was a lot of work, most of it done by my parents I am very sure, but also a very fun way to grow up. I've tasted just about every apple recipe in existance and a few that only exist in the minds of some really talented cooks. This one, is my from one of my greatest friends, my Grandma, who I call Norman. There is no recipe, I just learned from watching, and I've tried to recreate it here.


orchard apples--enough to fill the pot or crockpot your cooking the sauce in. A mix of apple varieties provides the best flavor. Go to your local orchard and buy second quality apples. Never buy first quality for cooking! Wash, quarter, core, peel, and slice into your pot. You can use one of those apple peeler things, but I think they leave too much core in the apple. Sit down, put on some good tunes, and while away an hour or so peeling apples. It can be a very peaceful, albeit hand cramping, time in your day!

Add a small amount of sugar--Norman always used lots of sugar, much more than I do, and I guess that's why her sauce is so good! I use less because of Young One, but also because I like a tarter sauce. It's important to add the sugar at the beginning of the cooking process so that it caramelizes.

Cook over low heat, stirring often, until apples are softened and a light brown color is achieved. I use my crock pot on high and stay close, because it gets done very quickly. I like to leave it slightly chunky. When Young One was a baby, I left the sugar out and cooked it until the apples completely fell apart.

Enjoy warm or cold. It's great with vanilla bean ice cream and a sprinkling of homemade granola.

I Caved! School Lunch Update

For the sake of my sanity during the first week of school, I completely caved on my good intentions of packing healthy lunches. I bought, GASP, two Lunchables. For the young one, this was quite a treat, but it also sparked some incredible discussions about what was in those bright yellow boxes. And I had serious parental guilt when I read the ingredients. Yikes.

The one thing I know for sure about being a parent is that you're guilt ridden at every step, so I'm learning to forgive myself, and move on. It's easy to type this, but not so easy to live it. I think I heard somewhere, that Mom is Latin for guilt. Well, not really, but sometimes it feels like it.

So, he carried his Lunchables two days, ate hot lunch one day (It's PANCAKE DAY MOM), and I sent a healthy lunch one day. The lunch I packed was enjoyed, but it didn't travel very well. And the amount of trash that it generated was not fitting with my attempt at cutting down on waste in our house. So, I caved once again, and bought a Laptop Lunchbox system on ebay. And we love it.

Laptop Lunchboxes are compartmentalized lunch totes, made from Tupperware-like plastic. It's like a Japanese Bento box. It washes up easily, comes in an insulated carrier, and is completed by a drink bottle and utensils. Young One loves it and can't wait to use it. The "system" we purchased came with a recipe book and guide to healthy eating. I don't know how far into that we'll wade, but may use it for inspiration.

Right now, we're at peak harvest time, so we've been hitting the farmers markets and enjoying fantastic fruits and veggies from the grocery store. The best way I've found to get Young One to eat fruits and veggies is to make sure he's really hungry when he's trying them and to make sure to present a wide variety. It's going to be interesting to see what can get packed into his laptop lunchbox and what will come back home.

I'll keep you posted!

This Week's Five

Sight: Haunted Ground by Erin Hart

I don't normally read thrillers/crime novels, but this one caught and held my attention. Set in Ireland, the author, a woman who lives in my area, is amazing in her descriptions of Ireland. She also creates characters that are instantly recognizable and become more and more endearing with each page.

Sound: Spring Awakening by the Original Broadway Cast

Nothing short of spectacular. Can't wait until it makes it way to Minneapolis. Or I just might have to make the trip to NY for this one.

Scent: Homemade Applesauce

Taste: Homemade Applesauce!

Touch: Vintage Tableclothes

I'm making pillows out of vintage tableclothes. The fabrics go wonderfully with my antiques. I love the colors and they're so durable and kid friendly.

Taking a little time to play with words, to play with food, and just to play!