Friday, August 22, 2014

produce guilt

You could either call it Produce Guilt or Garden Guilt, but since about the middle of July, I have been calling it produce guilt. It's the very real guilt of a head of broccoli going to waste, flowering in your garden because you were only able to eat three heads of broccoli that week, not five. It's the sincere guilt of watching your swiss chard grow rhubarb-size because you just don't know what to do with swiss chard. It's a guilt that lingers as every time you walk into your garden you are greeted by brown and dehydrated sweet peas that still dangle in the wind.

I have told my neighbors about my Produce Guilt. I have invited them to come by anytime and get anything they want out of the garden. And a few have stopped by a time or two. But it's not enough.

So when my eggplants became ready for harvest, I decided I would not let one egg plant go to waste. After eating eggplant Parmesan, the one and only eggplant recipe in my repertoire, I consulted Martha and her incredible list of recipe ideas. There I found the recipe for Roasted Eggplant Dip with Greek Yogurt.

Last night in the midst of bedtime with the kids, I made the stuff. I roasted four smallish eggplants under the broiler until all sides were black with char, removed the skin, gave it a rough chop and added a few more ingredients. And it turned out decent. I don't think anyone would ask for the recipe at a party, but for using up four eggplants, the dip went well with pretzel crisps and was good for watching Shark Tank.

But I should warn you, the smell left on the lower level of the house seems to linger. Like, when you walk down the stairs at 4 am to get your son a sippy cup of water, there is an aroma that you must walk through to get to the the water faucet. It will stop you, make you gag a bit, and force you to give your son his sippy cup and run back downstairs to blog about it. And to rid your house of every last trace of the stuff. Because it smells so, so stinky.

So what do you do? Do you eat sub-par dip because you feel guilty about how well eggplants seem to grow in Minnesota summers? Or do you turn a blind eye to all of those purple tear drops, begging to be made into something?

I guess what I'm trying to say is: Anybody want some eggplants?


Thursday, August 21, 2014

great uncle carl

These two love each other so much! And they take the best pictures together. There is love all around and somehow the camera seems to catch it every time. You might remember the time Uncle Carl showed up and saved the day when Ivar was just a baby.

Or the awesome Rooster Scooter he made for Ivar.

Just look at this sweetness!

Well, this time when he came he fixed the back wheel on Ivar's trike. Which was no small job, as the wheel we ordered was too big so that he had to grind down the axle using a blade grinder. And that's Uncle Carl: he's always fixing things and giving our boy lots of love and attention. We love you Uncle Carl!


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

recipe links

I am reading Farmer Boy again. Farmer Boy is one of Laura Ingalls Wilder's books and tells of her husband's childhood growing up on his family farm out east. It details his day to day, what work they did each month, and a lot of the book talks about the food the mom and sisters prepared.

I am reading this book at the same time our garden is bursting with produce and I got inspired. So I've been cooking and baking and trying new things in our kitchen. For my own sake, and for yours, if you are interested, I thought I'd catalog the recipes we have tried.

Hummus.  No chickpeas in our garden, but I've always wanted to make my own hummus. And since we go through the tubs from the store so fast, I thought I'd give it a whirl. This hummus was as good as the stuff I buy at the grocery store. I wanted to for sure keep track of this link because the order and process seems to make a huge difference in the world of Hummus.

Basil Maintenance. I was all excited to make a batch of pesto, and then realized I needed a whole lot more basil than I had thought. So I stumbled upon the link for basil maintenance that taught me how to grow a healthier, bushier plant. And how to propagate basil from this one plant. Hopefully in a few weeks I'll have six indoor basil plants!

Maple Lemonade. I wanted to figure out how to sweeten my lemonade without white sugar. You can definitely taste the maple, but it is unique and great on ice.

Martha Stewarts Seasonal Produce Guide. Have you seen this before? It's just fun to look around! I used it to try to find a blueberry cobbler recipe. I ended up making Pioneer Woman's Cobbler and it was awesome with our homemade ice cream melting on top.

Philadelphia Style Vanilla Ice Cream. I got out the ice cream maker this week. Man is homemade ice cream good. We now have a line up of future ice creams to try, including peanut butter ice cream and a blackberry sorbet.

Broccoli Salad: I cannot get enough of this stuff. But I'll be honest, I cannot make it as well as any deli counter can. I have tried, and my version just doesn't taste as good. I'm not sure what the secret is...but the grocery store kind is the best. So I'll just keep buying little, personal tubs for myself.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

life in words

This is our truck bed, where we have a little unexpected garden growing in the compost we never scooped out. I saw this day after day, but it didn't register as hilarious until I drove a friend to the movies and as she got out of the truck at the theater, she whipped out her camera to document our mobile garden.


So I have become a blogger who writes about the pictures she takes. It's fine, and serves as a great way to document our lives. But today, besides the picture of our mobile garden, I'm going to try to write out my thoughts here without pictures, as the thoughts pop into my head.

I'll begin with Elsie. Because the girl is out of control. I usually know where she is because I can hear the step stool scooting in front of her. She pushes it everywhere she needs to go. Yesterday, I was cleaning up the bathroom counter that was flooded after she had been sent to wash her hands. I came out to find that she had found the yogurt I had been dishing up before cleaning up the flood in the bathroom. She had utilized every spoon from the silverware drawer in an attempt to get that yogurt into the bowl.

It was everywhere but the bowl.

I sort of envision her as a little, white, female Steve Urkel. She doesn't try to be such a handful. She just is. And when I catch her mid-mess her eyes look so sweet as if to say, "did I do that?"

Today I was putting laundry away and discovered her standing on her step stool taking little bites out of all of the apples I just purchased yesterday. Every one of them, tiny bites on each side. As if a little rodent had found my fruit.

I can't tell our kittens a part. I never have been able to. I think if I tried I could probably figure out some marking, but there is little time to study cat hair patterns in my life. But I know which cat is which based on behavior. One is super wild and the other is super timid. I have decided Thomas is the more active of the two, the one who proudly brings frogs and bats and mice into the garage clamped in his jaw. Percy runs for his life when I get out the broom to sweep the garage.

Ivar is growing every single day and it amazes me. He looks so long and huge when I go in at night to check on him at night. Lately it has stopped me in my tracks and I just stand there and look at my little boy.

Yesterday I played with Ivar and Elsie really, really hard all afternoon. We were playing doctor, taking turns being the doctor and patient, and Elsie was always the nurse. We each wore a clean diaper on our heads and used more clean diapers to bandage wounds and to use as blankets and for ice packs. We laughed so hard together and it felt so awesome. To play without interruption. It reminded me of my babysitting days when I was a rockstar sitter. And now we have a whole package of diapers that have been spread out and are all ready to wear.

I have a lot of produce guilt this year. We have so much coming out of our garden that it is hard to keep up with meals to eat it up. And I know I should give it away, but even that takes some level of organization, and I'm just not there at the moment.

Tomorrow the woman who lived in this house for 40 years before us is going to come by for a visit with her daughter. This is the week her husband died, six years ago and she asked if they could just come and be at the farm. She has been here lots of times since we moved in, but not with her daughter. I am so pleased to have them coming and hope they can take a long walk and talk and remember.


Monday, August 18, 2014

The Stepping Stones Community Walk

Saturday morning I woke up bright and early and went to hang pennants for The Stepping Stones Community Walk. It had been rescheduled from earlier in the summer and I had no idea what sort of turn out to expect.

In the end, we had about 80 people come to walk and that number felt really good. A great start, and a really wonderful group of people. One of the employees from the Women's Center spoke before we walked and did an awesome job of communicating the heart this center has for helping these mom's get back on their feet. And then we walked a quick mile to the picnic pavilion that then led to Celebrate Dundas.

There is a funny vulnerability in helping lead an event like this. The day before I started to worry that it might have been a silly idea. You wonder if anyone will show up. But when everyone started pulling up in their cars to register I knew we were onto something good. People were there because they wanted to be and wanted to support The Women's Center. And there was a collective energy and camaraderie that made me so grateful to get to be a part of such a morning.

I was trying to explain this feeling of gratitude to my mom and my sister-in-law Sara after the walk as we wandered through a community garage sale and Sara mentioned a line Gary Haugen had once said, "If you do nothing, nothing will happen. If you do something, something might happen."

I love those words. They sum up the humble hopefulness you hold onto when you're doing anything that feels like you're throwing yourself out there. Like the young mom who walked through the Stepping Stones program this year who is now registered to take night classes at a community college. She's doing something, and it's going to change the course of her life and the life of her baby.


Friday, August 15, 2014

family reunion: to lake superior

My favorite memories from our family time together on the North Shore:

-The night we went to Temperance River and Claire Helen gave me a back massage while Sonna did my hair. I was sitting on a log and I kept making up new verses to The Edmund Fitzgerald a song of Harrington lore. Annika and Mara came over with Nellie while Sonna kept telling us "fun facts" about the sinking of the Titanic and I kept telling her, "that fact isn't fun at all!" We had the giggles so bad and I loved laughing with my nieces.

-We went to Lutsen to ride the Alpine Slide and I heard Simon say, "I want to go up with Becca!" I told him and his mama that my heart swelled three sizes when I heard him say it. On our way up on the chairlift Simon pointed out someone's flip flop down below. I said, "who would be dumb enough to wear flip flops on a chair lift?" Simon was horrified, "You! You are wearing flip flops!"

-Ivar got out of the pool complaining that he was cold. We wrapped him in a towel and then he walked back into the pool claiming he was much warmer now.

It was an awesome trip that included roasted beets made my my sister-in-law Stephanie, Sven and Ole Pizza, skipping rocks, S'mores around a campfire, finishing a book, late night conversations all accompanied by the sound of waves on the shore. It was one for the record books. Family time is the best time.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

family reunion day #3

To the Water Park! We celebrated Nellie's birthday with ice cream cake, the lazy river and presents. I don't have much to say about this day except that my nieces and nephews are pure joy. I love them to pieces and to get this much time just to play together is simply the best.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

family reunion day #2

I remember when I was a little girl husking corn at my Grandma's farm. Everyone stopped to help and as we sat in our circle we'd talk and laugh. One time a little field mouse ran up my grandpa's pant leg. He caught it mid way up and then I don't remember what happened...

Anyway, I was having these happy flash backs as a whole new generation gathered in a circle to husk dozens of ears of sweet corn for the wiener roast we had last Tuesday night.

My cousin Dan was in town and so was my brother, so we gathered all of the Minnesota relatives to celebrate our awesome family. It was super sweet to watch our kids play together. It just doesn't seem that long ago that we were the kids tromping through chicken coops looking for our own fun.

The night was precious and ended in a big game of kick ball. Family is my favorite.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

family reunion day #1

Family reunions are just the best. I love them more than anything else. My brother and his family flew last Sunday night for a full week of family togetherness. (It had been a whole year since we had all been together which was way too long.) This reunion started out with a picnic at Annika's house and a big water fight. Dad had bought 400 water balloons for the grandkids so guess who the adults decided should receive all of those water balloons? Dad! I got this video and if you turn it up you can hear my dad laugh/panting. It's pretty awesome.

water balloons from Becca Groves on Vimeo.


family vacation time

I remember at the beginning of the summer feeling panicked that we weren't going anywhere. I saw pictures of other people's vacations and felt that super sting of internet-related jealousy. Well I had to wait a few months, but these past two weeks I got my fill of going somewhere! Our two major summer outings happened to land back to back and it has been a full, awesome, wonderful two weeks of summer vacation.

I have been sorting through my pictures from August and cannot get over how many pictures I have taken. And I want to get caught up on this blog...so if you'll let me, I'd like to just take a few posts to share the stories and pictures of our two weeks of family togetherness. It might be overkill, but these pictures hold some very happy memories.

Like the time we were so desperate for Elsie to stay happy in her car seat that we handed her the bag of cheddar popcorn. A mess that seemed very much worth it at the time...


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

our organic garden

I'm all for keeping it real on this blog, and I'm about to do just that. Our garden is abundant this year in cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes and sweet peas. And depending on how I take the pictures, you might just think our garden is well tended. And it sort of is. It gets watered. It was planted. You know, the basics.

But it turns out there is a lot going on at this little hobby farm. And weeding just never seems to be at the top of the list. Which means that our garden is also abundant in weeds. As in, they are out of control.

Tonight we will have 40 relatives here to visit our little farm. The farming relatives. The ones who all have huge gardens and green thumbs and years and years of expertise. And we're going to have to show them our weeds. I have this feeling some of these relatives might just grab a pair of gloves and start pulling. Which would be awesome and embarrassing at the same time.

So as long as the farming relatives get to see the true state of our garden, I thought I'd share it with you too.

So there it is. Our dirty laundry. Or in this case, our weedy garden.


Monday, August 4, 2014

the best meal of the year

Behold the Fried Green Tomato.

I am pretty sure it is my favorite food to eat. I thought about that fact long and hard as I ate them this year. I thought through the christmas menu, the thanksgiving menu, compared it against my favorite soup, even against a caprese salad. And I decided that the Fried Green Tomato wins for top favorite.

And I think I know why: you can only have a Fried Green Tomato for a few weeks of the year. It is a seasonal food, available nowhere unless there are green tomatoes growing.

Not to mention the dipping sauce. A kicked up mayonnaise with extra vinegar. Salivating as I type. I wrote about the dipping sauce back in 2011. And you might remember last year when I paired the food with the movie, which was pretty much as awesome as I had imagined it would be.

While we ate our Strawberry Pie back in June, Rory and I were talking about how delicious the pie was, partly because we picked those very berries, and partly because those berries were perfectly ripe. You can order a slice of strawberry pie any day of the year at Bakers Square, but you're not going to get a pie like the one we ate at the end of June. You have to wait until the end of June to have a strawberry pie that good.

So we decided to only have strawberry pie at the end of June. And a peach pie only in July. And homemade blueberry cobbler with homemade ice cream in August. We got all excited about having one special sweet treat each month of the year, depending on what is in season. (I've googled some mid-winter sweets...custard pie, banana cream, honey pie...just you wait!) And to not eat that treat any other time of the year.

Because food tastes better when it's in season. That should be obvious. But maybe part of the goodness is in anticipating that food all year long. Like my Fried Green Tomatoes.


Saturday, August 2, 2014

more jesus

Each night when Elsie goes to sleep we will read three books and then I'll ask her if she wants to snuggle. She always does and it means she turns her body and rests her head under my chin as we rock back and forth and I sing Jesus Loves Me.

Tonight as a stalling tactic, she kept calling out during the song, "More Jesus!" So I sang Jesus Loves the Little Children. And she kept on, "More Jesus! More Jesus!"

I mean, honestly, what is a mother to do?

So I kept on, "Jesus, Jesus there's just something about that name. Master, Savior, Jesus..." and on, "Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus...Jesus, Jesus how I trust Him!" and on, "What a Friend we have in Jesus, All our Sins and Griefs to Bear..." And at this point it became a game for me too. A good ol' church-girl challenge. I went through camp songs, hymns, and church liturgy.

It was a really precious moment and a moment I am sure will now be repeated, now that Elsie knows the magic words that will keep me in her room, holding her close, rocking her back and forth, back and forth.

More Jesus!


Thursday, July 31, 2014

july at the grovestead

And I'm back! We just returned from family bible camp and had an awesome time. I had planned on blogging while up at camp, but as it turns out camp has its own wonderful pace and I only got my laptop out one time. Which might just be reason number 6,793 why I love family bible camp so much.

But it also meant I went a whole week without blogging! Which is a very rare occurrence for me.

This month flew by and I have a whole lot of posts still left in my head so I thought I'd close this month with a bit of a photo dump. We're in full on summertime here at the grovestead. Lots of animals, flowers, produce, sunshine and weeds. Our chickens are growing, our children are growing, and our garden is growing.

It's a happy season and we're happily soaking it all in.