Since Alex and Matt are going out of town for Thanksgiving  we had an early dinner at their house yesterday. We snacked on hummus and chips, sausage, cheese, and crackers while dinner cooked. We had a ham, mashed potatoes, broccoli with cheese sauce from scratch, and rolls. It was simple, but nice. Later they had pumpkin pie. Alex and I had a nice visit and watched a movie while the boys were on minecraft. 

I'm working Thanksgiving night and will likely go to Danny's for a little while beforehand. Normally I would have him over for a long weekend, but I am working everyday.
 
I took a few vacation days before they disappeared, it just so happened to correspond with my birthday. I had a lot of personal things to deal with. Stuff to do with housework, Danny's SSI, work paperwork, and back to school for Charles. I also took some time to spend with family, so most of that got done but not all. 

I did find some time to try out a couple small batch baking recipes. There is something special about small batch baking. Smaller mixing bowls make easier clean up, there are no treats going to waste, they are always fresh. They also remind me of the tea parties the kids and I used to have. With little cakes, and little sandwiches. Even the boys enjoyed them.

Yesterday I made a small chocolate cake with a mocha meringue icing. The icing was a little on the sweet side or maybe it was too much icing for the little bit of cake. The kids took me out to eat,  and then we went back to the house for a bite of cake. Matt helped Charles install something on the computer, while everyone crowded around my bedroom. I started to fall asleep before they left. Not that the boys left me to sleep in peace. They took turns sleeping, so there was always someone in my room on the computer. 
 
 
Last weekend both Mom and I had to work, so yesterday when she called I ran over to visit. I brought two small bottles of elderberry wine and a bunch of radishes from my garden. I sauteed the radishes and greens with onion then sprinkled with a small amount of bacon bits and Parmesan cheese. We snacked on that with a glass of wine while we waited for dinner to be ready and we searched online for fabric to finish the backing of her i-spy quilt. She was making a small rag quilt for my sister, but then sis wanted a twin size.

Dinner was good, she made a mexican casserole that my aunt used to make. It was fun working in the kitchen together, eating and visiting. We never did find the fabric she wanted,
 
Since starting a garden with Ruben I have been trying to show him how to cook and enjoy the items he is growing. His garden is a few weeks behind mine, so when I was thinning my radishes last week, I brought a couple over and decided to make a root vegetable tart. I also brought store bought radishes, carrots, beets, spinach, shallots, feta, and pie crust. I bought the spinach as the store bought veggies did not have the lovely green I get from my home grown beets and radishes. I sliced and saute the veggies in olive oil before layering on a flat crust. Sprinkle with cheese garnish with halved garden radishes with greens intact, fold over edge and bake. My sister thought I was crazy about cooking radishes, but she loved it.

Today I had more radishes that needed picked. I will have to finish that row and reseed soon. I decided this time I would make a radish green pesto with almonds. I brought over the hand crank processor and the boys fought over working it. It turned out very tasty. The radish greens are more mild than basil. We had it on whole wheat crackers and they practically licked the bowl clean.

We weeded and thinned out Ruben's garden while I was there. We sampled the broccoli sprouts we thinned, which had a little bite. Cruz got in on the learning by examining a clean radish. I let him hold it while I was watching him closely. He mouthed the string root and held the red ball, before it disappeared into my mouth.

Cruz learned about color and texture, Ruben is learning about growing and sampling from the garden, and Ramon is learning creativity in the kitchen. Even Mom was learning to try new things. Something I learned today, was that the Victorians never ate their radishes raw. I find it interesting that is now the norm.


 
We went to an alpaca Farm in Vinton, Savanna Breeze. On the way we stopped at Brandon to get a picture of the largest skillet in Iowa and picked up some squash from a kind older gentleman. I am cooking some of it now, perhaps I will make pumpkin/squash bread out of the puree.
 
The kids and I went to explore the Arboretum again. It has changed so much since spring. We were inspired by so  many things and even took time to feed the fish and walk around the meditation maze.
 
I have alot of memories of Cattle Congess from when I was a child. Not just the rides, but the exhibits too. I loved the life size butter sculptures, the animals, vegetable, and crafts. I took the kids this year, it was their 100 year anniversary.

When I brought up NCC with the kids we had a different idea of how things would go. In the end we  went friday evening before I had to go in to work. With limited time and the late hour, we had to limit our activities. I allowed one ride Alex chose the zipper, my ride of choice as a teen. I remember getting stuck on it while it was repaired. I didn't know why we were sitting still but my mother was not impressed with the impromptu maintenance. The boys decided to play a game instead. Charles played the balloon/dart game, another fav frm my past. Danny played the game where you toss a wiffle ball onto a canning jar. They each won a small stuffie.

We did go through the barns. I was impressed with the various animals. In perticular the rippling muscled bull and the hairy sheep. They had been sheered so it is difficult to tell from the pictures. Basically they grow curly locks of hair instead of wool. I also liked the lincoln and corridale.

You cannot go to the fair without snacks. I had a walking taco and cheese curds, and of course lots of taffy. Mmmm. Charles was my photographer.
 
What better way to celebrate Memorial Day than to spend it with family at Backbone State Park. Backbone is a family favorite. My grandfather worked there during FDR's Reforrestation Relief Act. Civilian Concervation Corps employed 250,000 young men between the ages of 18-25. These men worked at reforrestation, road construction, and developing national parks. The CCC Museum is a must see.

Aside from the history both familial and national, Backbone is a truley beautiful place. My grandparents used to take us camping there when I was young. I remember fishing with Grandpa and Grandma frying up the best fish I had ever tried. They had an onsite fish hatchery at the time, that was relocated nearby. When we have time we like to visit and feed the fish. The cold fresh springs run through the park. The kids always love to splash around, wether you want them to or not. The cliffs, caves, and paths are also fun to explore. Although in some areas you need to take caution.

Backbone has been a place where memories to be made and it continues to be. Just ask my sisters about the night the raccoons invade one of our tents, or my mother about the climber that fell and needed first aid, or my son about his impromptu graduation party.