Seven Quick Takes #1

Here’s my first seven quick takes from my trip to the Bitterroot Valley! Check out Jen’s 7QT here.

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1.

So, these are my seven quick takes about my week at my sister-in-law’s! (My husband’s sister & her husband and their four adorable kids.) I went to their house in western Montana to help watch the kids for a week while she had a researcher from Duke come to see her work – she’s a crazy awesome botanist. She studies bees, and wildflowers, and butterflies and is incredibly smart – a gift she has definitely passed on to her kids. The week was chock full of lessons for me. For sure. They live in a beautiful log cabin built by her husband and live off-the-grid. Yep, no power. Yep, a well. They do have running water. My mother-in-law also came out for the week so I wasn’t totally on my own, but in all actuality I was really excited about it. It was going to be like luxurious camping. And, it was. But way better.

So, quick take #1 — tree houses provide an inordinate amount of opportunity for the imagination to grow. There were about twenty different identities that the treehouse took on while I was there and it was awesome to see what those kids could come up with. Spaceship, real ship, cave, monkey’s house, tree house, osprey’s nest, butterfly study station. It was beautiful.

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Coolest tree house ever.

2.

Numero Dos — When there’s not a grocery store nearby (like within 30 miles with part of that being a dirt road) you really can’t follow a recipe very well. ¬†(That being said – my sister-in-law has a VERY well stocked pantry and cool cellar.) BUT – you can cook some pretty amazing things by figuring out what needs to be eaten and what you have readily available. We had pancakes every other morning that I was there, mainly because the kids just loved them and who’s going to say no when you have four adorable children saying that they love your cooking?? (Being the good aunt that I am we put blueberries AND chocolate chips in them.) But what do you do when you run out of those little goodies? Their genious and so-awesome-it-made-me-want-to-cry idea was to go pick huckleberries to put in the next days pancakes. So, what does the oldest one (10 yrs I think) promptly do while I wash the dishes? He went out to his dad’s shop with 5 washed small yogurt containers, finds wire, punches holes in the sides of the cups with a nail punch, and then makes handles for 5 perfect-sized huckleberry patch picking buckets!!

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Not that great a picture, but you get the point. Yummy, yummy pancakes are the point. ūüôā

3.

My third quick take is very much related to the last one. If you have four kids and there’s no grocery store nearby, they get really good at eating WHATEVER is placed in front of them and smile all the way through it. I know as a kid I wouldn’t have been too interested in eating a vegetable lasagna. I had to make dinner one night and we had everything for lasagna the way that I normally make it, but no meat. But we had LOTS of vegetables – carrots, onions, spinach, peppers, broccoli. And I put every last bit of them in that lasagna. (Did I mention that there actually were six kids and five adults? Mark’s other incredible sister came out from Colorado halfway through the week with her two awesome kids – so we had a full house!!)

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And bless their hearts, those kids loved every last bit of that lasagna. (It was pretty tasty though.)

4.

Number four is that sleeping in the fresh air is amazing. ¬†I slept in the loft while I was there and, during the summer at least, this was the most enjoyable experience. ¬†They have a routine (just like everybody had before A/C ruined modern building construction techniques – don’t get me started) to open and close the windows at certain times of the day. ¬†The kids of course knew exactly what to do — ¬†I was clueless at first. ¬†The windows all stay open in the evenings, night, and mornings to let cool air into the house. ¬†There’s two windows in each of the bedrooms to allow for through ventilation and larger windows in the living areas. ¬†Then around ten-thirty or eleven in the morning before it gets too hot, all of the windows are closed to keep the cool air inside. ¬†It worked like a charm and kept the house so comfortable! ¬†(I know, I know, it’s Montana but it actually got into the nineties that week!) ¬†Anyway, I slept like a baby. ¬†Cool air breezing through my loft window. ¬†No mosquitos. ¬†No noise. ¬†(Having no mosquitos was amazing – Charleston, SC – you need to get on the bandwagon with this one!)

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View out of my diamond shaped loft window – yes, there’s chicken wire (helps to deter bats) yep, bats – but I never saw any – so I guess it works!

5.

The fifth thing that I learned is that when a kid yells – you really don’t ALWAYS need to come running. ¬†Most of the time they can work their squabbles out on their own — if they don’t think that getting a parent to come and help them is the only way to solve things. ¬†This is going to be a serious struggle for me one day, I know. ¬†But, I’m inspired. ¬†I will not be a helicopter mom. I will not be a helicopter mom. I will not be…..

6.

Kids are just pure pure love. ¬†I’m the new aunt. ¬†All six of these adorable kids have only really met me once before, which was at Mark and I’s wedding. ¬†And that was a pretty hectic affair. ¬†But when I got there, it was just hugs and smiles and joy all around because their new Aunt Amelia was coming to stay with them. ¬†It was so humbling and wonderful. ¬†I can’t wait to have some of my own.

7.

There’s a true strength and beauty to the way of life that my sister-in-law and her husband and their family are living. ¬†They have to filter all their water, and they wear headlamps around the house in the evenings (they do have two solar panels to power two small lights and their computer chargers – they aren’t completely out of contact with the rest of the world!), and I really don’t have any idea what their lives are like during the winter. ¬†But, they are giving their family a gift that not many children know today. ¬†Their kids play with no fence around their yard to keep them from wandering off – their backyard is the woods around them. ¬†They have to learn to keep themselves nearby the house. ¬†They have immense imaginations, they are appreciative of everything that they have, they are SO well-behaved, and they just love nature and the world around them is experienced. ¬†It was just a true joy to spend that time with them and I’m so thankful for it. ¬† I think that while their way of life might not be for everybody, I had a lot to learn and I hope it sticks!

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I’ll be feeding the ducks for years at this rate…

Bread, bread, bread… ¬†Why do you confound me?? ¬†I have made it through four bread recipes so far with my new Bosch Universal mixer (gifted to us by the WONDERFUL kitchen store – the Coastal Cupboard!) and all of them have turned out super DENSE.¬†And I can’t figure it out!!!! ¬†So far I think thirteen loaves have been made… ¬†They all taste amazing – great flavor (I’m using Wheat Montana flour in Natural White and Prairie Gold) – but a half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread is all that my stomach can take.

I need good recipes!  I know this blog has not made it out to anyone yet, but for future readers who have the patience to make it to this posting, PLEASE HELP!!

Now back to cookie making…

Life is like a spilled bowl of cherries

Today is a day of cleaning… ¬†organizing… ¬†vacuuming…

All things that I aspire to, but am not very good at. ¬†I dream and dream of how successful I would be if I had a neat working space, and a super clean kitchen, and a really organized fabric stash. ¬†And every once in a while I make it to that place. ¬†It’s AMAZING.

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then all hell breaks loose and it’s gone. ¬†That perfect moment of organization is out the window. ¬†So, raise your glasses! ¬†Here’s to a day of trying to reach one day of AMAZING before it goes back into craziness. ¬†Maybe I’ll be able to make this one into two days of amazing. ¬†I guess there’s just something about perfect open spaces that gives me awesome ideas of what I want to cook (often bread involving the oh-so-evil-and-messy flour), or sew (needles somehow are attracted to an open floor – I swear), or paint (there’s pretty much nothing non-messy about painting.)

Now, that being said, I made an AWESOME recipe last night.  I usually am not a huge fan of my own cooking, but this one had some true merit (and helped use up a large costco serving of my favorite fruit ever РRainier Cherries!)

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(Photo snagged from internet world)

So, I don’t know about everybody else, but I just love rainier cherries but there are about zero entree dish recipes online incorporating them! Looked at what I had and came up with an awesome recipe that turned out GREAT!

Bacon-wrapped Chicken Stuffed with Rainier Cherries & Feta

Pit and coarsely chop about one cup of rainier cherries.
Chop 1/4 cup or so of onion.
Mix these with enough olive oil to coat and mix in a little bit of rosemary and thyme (maybe 1/2 tablespoon total seasonings.)
Add a bit of pepper and a tiny bit of salt.
—- Put in fridge.

To make marinade for chicken put chicken in bowl, add good amount of olive oil to coat and a bit more. Add: 1 to 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, 2-3 tablespoons honey, 1-2 tablespoons mustard (type your choice), and pepper. (won’t need salt – will be covered with bacon!)

Put chicken in fridge and marinate until 1 hr before dinner time.

When ready, preheat cast iron skillet in oven to 375 to 400 degrees. (I started out at 375 and upped it to 375. Then remove chicken from marinade. Butterfly the chicken but cutting into the thick side but not all the way through. Open flat onto counter surface or cutting board. Flatten chicken with mallet or rolling pin. Then on one side of the open piece of chicken spread out a heaping spoonful of cherry mixture. Cover with a heaping spoonful of feta cheese (would also work awesome with gorgonzola, I’m sure). Then roll the chicken into a roll and wrap with bacon. Tie with wet baker’s twine to keep bacon in place.

Repeat with all pieces of chicken.

Lastly! Place the bacon-wrapped chicken pieces in the cast iron skillet. I think I cooked them for about 30 minutes total. The pan fills with juices from the chicken and bacon, so at the very end I placed the chicken on a cookie sheet to crisp the bacon on both sides.

Oops! Almost forgot the sauce! Take the leftovers of the cherry mix (not the feta) and put in sauce pan on med-hi. Cook for just a minute (mix already has olive oil in it). Then add a 1/4 cup or a little bit more of balsamic vinegar. Cook down until it has thicken slightly. Take off the heat and add a table spoon of butter. The perfect sauce to go with it!

I served with yummy fresh green beans with onions and the extra bacon pieces tossed in!! I’m sorry I don’t have a picture, but when I make it again I’ll definitely take one!

Hope you enjoy! Nothing like some good Rainier cherries!!!

A soft opening…

I need to find a way to express my thoughts, because there are too many things going on in my life for me to keep them all straight. ¬†I want to paint! ¬†I want to sew! ¬†I want to bake! ¬†I want to have kids! ¬†(I know I know, we just got married… ¬†wait a year… ¬†well, I have baby brain and it seems that even when I’m trying not to freak out my husband, I still end up mentioning something about babies.) ¬†So, I think I’m going to see how this goes for a while first before letting it all out there into the netherworld. ¬†This is the official soft opening to no one other than… me. ¬†I fly unto thee, Mary, because otherwise I’d be a complete and utter mess.