Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sydney is Driving!

Here she is!  We've been taking small drives in the Fiat and she's doing a wonderful job!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Sir Benedict

This is Sydney's birthday present from Holden...

His name is Sir Benedict and he's beautiful!  A few of us have been calling him Fabio because everyone is in love with him and he does this little move that shakes that beautiful, tan, mane of his.  (I don't know what else to call it on a rooster.)

We're glad to have him, but the circumstances of his arrival were not pretty.

This was Sydney's flock a few weeks ago.  She had six beautiful laying hens and two little black chicks, "The Twins", that could not be separated.

Unfortunately, something began picking them off and in a few days time she was just down to 3 birds.  She has one of the little black chicks left and two from her original flock.  We've set out a live trap to see what was taking them but haven't caught anything.  The hens needed a little protection.  This is where Sir Benedict comes in.  He instantly took on his role of protector and loves his girls dearly.

No.  We're not hatching chicks.  No, we're not.  Seriously.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Sydney turns 16!

Can you believe it?  Sydney is 16 years old today!  Some of her birthday plans didn't turn out due to unpredictable weather, but here's a snapshot of the wonderful day we had.

Up early - headed into the cities to visit bookshops.  The first stop was the Lyndale Park Rose Garden.  Sydney has always loved roses.  Here is a picture of her in that same garden when she was just over a year old.  Notice the bare feet - that hasn't changed a bit!
And here she is today!

After a beautiful morning outdoors, we headed to some local bookstores as the storms rolled in.  The first stop was, again, an old favorite from when she was small.  It's a children's bookstore called Wild Rumpus and they have animals throughout the entire store.  There's a cat (Booker T.) and a chicken that free-range, and many others (ferret, chinchilla, birds, lizards, etc.) in their comfy little homes, tucked within the book aisles.  When you approach Wild Rumpus you will see a little door (the kid door) inside the bigger door (the adult door) and you can choose how you wish to enter.  Though all of us are over 5 feet tall, we still choose the kid door - even Andy!

After this we headed to Uncle Hugo's Science Fiction Bookstore.  A wonderful place where the used books are piled in boxes on the floor and stacked to the ceiling.

Then we needed lunch.  Off to Sydney's choice, Victor's 1959 Cafe.  It's a little dive in South Minneapolis that has very few seats, is almost always packed, has great Cuban food, and encourages patrons to write on the walls.  A wonderful place!

After yet another bookstore, we headed to our favorite little old-fashioned soda fountain run by a young husband and wife.  As we took a picture out front, Nick, one of their awesome employees, photo-bombed us as he was making fresh waffle cones :-)

We almost always end up asking them to make us something that's not on the menu - and they're happy to create it for us.  I usually ask for a chocolate-cherry soda.  Here's the new creation for today - a chocolate cherry malt.  It took a bit to get it mixed just right and the finished product was a work of art.

From there, we headed home to stream a western from Netflix and put the finishing touches on an almond cake that still needs some chocolate ganache frosting!  So I need to post this and finish that up before the movie ends.

Happy Birthday, Sydney!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Sydney's May 30 Horse Show

Here's Sydney on Sakotah at the Rick-A-Shay Ranch Fun Show.
It was a beautiful day but we had to hold the show indoors as heavy rain had soaked the outdoor arena.

Sydney placed well in each event.  Her favorite is Trail class.  Here she was asking Sakotah to kick a large ball through the pole goalposts.

Flying around the barrel.

And coming at me fast through the poles.

Here she is with Pam, her instructor, after the show.

Pizza Oven!!!

Here is the entire story of the pizza oven.

We started it last year.  First, we found the right place and put down some brick to see how we felt about the layout.  At first we thought we'd make a pad for both the oven and the grill, but in the end we decided to use the whole pad just for the pizza oven.

Then we dug down and made a pit for the pea gravel.  Everything was smoothed and we made sure it was as level as possible.

Laying brick from the old labyrinth. 

We used cinder block for the foundation.

The kids manually split the cinder blocks in two for half blocks.  (This is Holden in June 2014.)

And with the addition of 4 concrete air conditioner pads, the base is done!

Then it was time to build the brick arch.  We first built a wooden support structure that can later be used as a door.  Here's Holden in June 2015 - 5 inches taller than last year!

Then we dry-fit the bricks with pebbles between them to hold the arch shape.  The test was to pull out the wooden support to see if it stands on it's own.

And it did!

Then it was time to put just a little mortar between the bricks for the arch.  Sydney had a great idea to use plastic bags to squeeze in the mortar like putting frosting on a cake.  This is the only place we used mortar as we wanted it all to hold well when things expand with the heat.  Unfortunately, a storm turned our direction and we had to rush to finish it in the pouring rain!  We got it done, though.

Then it was time to build a sand dome that would, eventually, become the inside of the oven.  It was tricky to get the right mixture of sand and water to hold up the dome.  Too dry and it wouldn't stick together to hold shape.  Too wet and it made a big sand puddle.  The back end collapsed on us three times before we got enough water incorporated to keep it together.

But we got it done!  Now we needed to work fast so the sand wouldn't dry out and collapse on us again.

More sand was mixed in with the dirt/clay that we dug from the garden and the pond area.  The mixing was done grape-stomping style on a big tarp.

We put newspaper and a wet towel over the sand dome to keep it wet while we worked.  The first layer of clay/sand was put on.  We made softball sized balls of clay and packed them together in rows around the sand dome. 

Then we mixed straw into the clay to make cob.  It's stronger for the outside layer and insulates the oven when heated.

And it's applied in the same way.

And the construction is done!

The door was removed and the sand was pulled out.  It separated nicely due to the newspaper that was applied.  You can see the ring of half bricks we put around the bottom of the entire oven so we wouldn't wear away the clay when we scrape ashes out of the oven.

After a lot of small fires to dry it out, we were ready.

Perfect pizza!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Throwing Board April 25

Sydney has wanted to throw knives at a board for quite some time now.  So, she bought some knives.  We built a board.

Arms & Armor April 8

Catching up a little on events...

In March we discovered a gem of a place called Arms & Armor.  Sydney is fascinated by swords and Medieval weaponry, and we found this shop that makes world-renowned replicas of Medieval and Renaissance weapons and armor.  On April 8 we went to a Metalsmith Guild meeting (as Sydney has now become a Guild member) at Arms & Armor and we were able to handle 4,000 year old Viking swords and fifteenth century Italian armor.

We all enjoyed it, but Sydney was in heaven!

Reviving the blog!

Hi everyone!  We've usually only used the blog to keep friends and family up to date with trips, but we're going to bring it back to life for everyday stuff.  There's a lot going on as the kids get older and we want an easy way to post pictures and tell those embarrassing stories about Sydney and Holden :-)

So we'll start posting some stuff from the last few months and send reminder emails occasionally so you can check back.


Julia and Andy