Monday, September 1, 2014

Summer List - Why We Didn't Do As Much of the List as We Wanted To, Making Kebabs and Homemade Ice Cream, and a Picnic

Well, summer is pretty much over.  Jim and Drew went back to school last week, and today is Labor Day.  We got several things from our summer list done, but some things just never fit our schedule or our weather.  We also had some unforeseen events, some costly, this summer that changed a lot of our plans around.
Back in July, Jim's brother-in-law, Larry, who had had a heart attack and some strokes in the past year took a decided turn for the worse.  He was placed into Hospice care and given about a week to live.  We found this out the morning we were planning to leave for vacation in South Carolina, so we changed our vacation plans to be home to help Jim's sister and her family in any way we could.  We spent as much time as possible at the hospital that week.  Larry passed away a little over a week later.  Jim helped his sister make some of the funeral arrangements, and he was a pall bearer at the funeral.  Larry was a very special person - extremely kind and generous.  He was described in his eulogy as a cross between the ice cream man and Santa Claus, and I think that was the perfect description of him.  We were so sad to say goodbye to him, but he had been very ill, and we were relieved to know that his suffering was over and that he was in heaven.
Due to a huge rainfall and flooding in our area a few weeks ago, Jim's car got damaged and was stranded for a few days before it could be towed away.  Our mechanic got it going again, but the inside of the vehicle got very wet and needed to dry and be cleaned.  We had to reschedule our dental appointments (they were scheduled for the two days following the flooding, and flooded streets and car issues made it impossible to get to the dentist!).  Thankfully, a friend from church lent Jim a car for the weeks that Jim's car problems were being dealt with.
My van got broken into the following week, while Jim's car was still out of commission from the flood.  The thieves stole my Ipod and tried to steal the whole van, but were unsuccessful, thankfully!  In their attempt, they ripped out my ignition, which left the car inoperable.  With two deductibles to pay and having to go without the van for almost a week, we had to adapt our plans!

Make Kebabs
In late July, we spent a week in South Carolina with my family, and my parents decided to help us cross off a couple of activities on our summer list while we were there.  One of those things was making kebabs.  We made three different kinds of kebabs - kielbasa with green pepper and purple onion, marinated chicken with green pepper and purple onion, and mushroom and cherry tomato.
 We put the meat in the middle of the skewers and the veggies on either end of the skewers (to hold the meat in place.
 My dad did the grilling on the back deck.
 We had a fabulous Mediterranean dinner with the kebabs, some couscous salad, pita chips with a white bean puree, and tzatziki sauce.  Everything was delicious!
 Drew was the one who wanted to put kebab making on our summer list.  He had seen kebabs somewhere and thought they looked fun, so he was excited about trying them.  My brother-in-law helped him take his meat and veggies off of the skewer.  Drew loves sausage, so it was no surprise that he really enjoyed his kielbasa kebab!

Make Homemade Ice Cream
My dad has a fairly large garden in his back yard, and he has some blackberry bushes that did really well this summer.  My mom cooked up some blackberry syrup during blackberry season and saved it for our visit (since she knows that Jim loves blackberries), with the plan of making homemade blackberry ice cream.  We made the ice cream the same night as we made the kebabs, and we ate it all at a big family dinner.  The ice cream maker did its work during dinner, and then we had some delicious blackberry ice cream for dessert.
 The ice cream was smooth, creamy, and delicious!  What a fun treat!

I had planned to have a family picnic this summer, but we had to settle for Jim's staff picnic at school.  The night before faculty in-service began, the school staff and their families got together for a picnic at the school.  Jim grilled hamburgers, hot dogs, and barbecue chicken.  All the families brought salads, side dishes, burger toppings, and desserts to share.  It was a fun night!

 Maddie amused herself on the playground while the adults were playing a game.  I can't believe her fearlessness!
Garden Box
Our garden is growing and growing, and we are just finally starting to harvest some veggies!
 We picked a few tomatoes this week.
 Some of our green peppers are getting almost big enough to pick!

Hawkins Family Summer List
1.  Drew - Barnes and Noble summer reading program
2.  Make homemade ice cream
3.  Grill pizza and s'mores
4.  Go to the sprinkler park
5.  Have a garage sale
6.  Make a strawberry pie
7.  Go to the library
8.  Get Sonic shakes in our jammies (They are half-price after 8:00 pm!)
9.  Have a picnic
10.  Go putt-putting
11.  Go to Metro Beach
12.  Go to the Lego store
13.  Paint our bedroom
14.  Go to the dairy farm
15.  Drew - learn to ride a bike
16.  Drew - go to choir camp
17.  Drew and Jim - go to a Home Depot craft morning
18.  Make kebabs
19.  Keep up with our garden box - Tomatoes and peppers are growing, and we've picked a few tomatoes!
20.  Go to the dentist - We have appointments for the end of August and in September!
21.  Organize the bedrooms - Drew, Maddie, Us
22.  Go to a baseball game
23.  Maddie - try potty training
24.  Go to Dress Like a Cow Day at Chick-Fil-a
25.  Go bowling

I will probably do one last summer list post in September since we have a few things that we really do still plan to cross off the list.  Some things are just not going to happen, and that is fine with us, but there are a few that are still scheduled, so I will post about those later this month.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

First Day of School 2014/2015

After a busy summer of preparations, planning, and work for Jim and his staff, the new school year began yesterday!  Last year was a rough year in many, many ways, and everyone was looking forward to a fresh start this year.  Many families stuck it out through all of the transitions last year (not wanting to find a new school mid-year and waiting to see how things went with a new administrator), but Jim had no idea who would actually enroll for this new year.  He had heard that some people were leaving, and had assumed that others would, and in the end, some did.  However, a surprising number not only stayed, but also referred friends and family to the school as well.  Enrollment is much higher than anyone expected it to be, and several more students are visiting and testing this week after school has already started!  There is a spirit of excitement about the school that was missing last year, and the families that are there seem happy to be there.  It is such a wonderful difference!
Jim has worked incredibly hard since he became principal to do things right, make things better, and treat parents, students, and staff members kindly, fairly, and in a consistent, professional manner.  I am so, so proud of him and am thrilled to see that God is blessing his efforts.  
Drew started second grade yesterday!  I can't believe he is old enough to be a second grader!
 I love this guy, and I always miss him when he goes back to school!  He loves school, though, so I have an easier time letting him go since I know he is happy.
 He has a wonderful teacher this year, and we are excited about all the things he will do and learn in her class.
 Drew's class is the smallest in the elementary, with nine students, so I know he will be getting a lot of individual attention.  Six of the nine second graders are boys, so that will be lots of fun for Drew!
 Maddie loves to go visit Jim at school.  They walked around together the first morning of school while I took pictures for the school newsletter.  The secondary art teacher took this picture of them, and I love it!
Maddie also helped Daddy in the office.
 There are a couple little peg games in the office that Maddie loves to play.
We have been so busy in the past few weeks that I didn't have time to put together anything fancy for a first day gift for Drew's teacher.  I ended up grabbing her an 8-pack of Sharpies and some chocolate and tying it up with a ribbon and a tag.  I did break out my eyelet-setter and put an eyelet in the tag, but that was as fancy as I got this time!
We are excited for this school year and are praying that it will be a wonderful one!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Meatball Calzone

A few weeks ago, I was looking through my refrigerator and freezer and trying to come up with a meal plan using items I had on hand.  I had a big bag of frozen meatballs in my freezer, and I thought about making meatball subs, but I didn't have any sub buns.  I decided to get creative and make something from scratch.  I looked around on Pinterest and found a recipe for Meatball Calzone.  I gave it a try, adapting it a bit for my family.
I used my mom's stromboli dough recipe for the bread part of the calzone.  The dough recipe makes enough for two calzones, so I put half of the dough into the freezer for a future meal, and used the other half to make the calzone.  I served this to my family, and after one bite, Jim told me he loved it!  This calzone is very simple, but really delicious.  Here's how I made it.

Meatball Calzone

6 cups bread flour
1 Tbsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. oil
2 1/4 cups warm water
1 Tbsp. rapid rise yeast

8 precooked meatballs, sliced into thirds (I used thawed, frozen meatballs I bought at Sam's Club.)
1 cup mozzarella cheese

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 tsp. oregano
1 cup spaghetti sauce

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Mix flour, salt, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add water and oil, and mix 5 to 7 minutes with the dough hook, adding additional flour as needed, until dough is smooth and pulling away cleanly from the sides of the mixer bowl.  Let rest for 10 minutes.
Spray a pizza stone with non-stick spray.  Place half of the dough on the prepared pizza stone and roll into a large circle with a rolling pin.  I rolled mine all the way to the edges.
Place meatball slices on half of the dough circle.  Cover the meatballs with cheese.
Take the plain half of the dough circle and pull it over the meatball and cheese half, lining up the edges of the dough and covering the bottom half completely.  Pinch the edges of the dough together.
Mix the olive oil, garlic powder, garlic salt, and oregano in a small bowl, and brush on top of the calzone.
Bake the calzone for about 20 minutes or until the top is lightly browned.
While the calzone is baking, heat the spaghetti sauce.  When the calzone is baked, cut it into strips or wedges.  Serve the sauce alongside the calzone or on top.
This meatball calzone is very tasty, and I hope you will give it a try soon!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Charleston Trip - Day 2

On Day 2 of our Charleston trip, Jim and I were hoping to see more of the downtown area of Charleston and some of the historical landmarks in the city itself.  Because we didn't really know where we were going, and because there was supposed to be more rain that day, we decided to take a trolley tour.  We figured we would be covered from the weather that way, and we would have a guide showing us the sites.  I found a trolley service, the Lowcountry Loop Trolley, that was supposed to be a hop-on, hop-off trolley, and it was only $5 per person.  We thought that meant that we could hop off to spend time at things that interested us and catch another trolley on the route when it came by or just ride along for the whole route and see things from the trolley if the weather was bad.
 However, the trolley wasn't what we were expecting.  Instead of a guided tour through the city, it was more of a shuttle.  You could get on, tell the guide where you wanted to go, and she would drive you there.  She told some information as we rode along, but the "tour" was not really intended to be a tour.  We found out later that there is a free trolley service that runs from the Charleston Visitor Center that has routes through the city and stops at the landmarks.  I don't think it is a guided tour, but it would have been more of what we wanted.
We got on with one other couple who were wanting to tour a plantation.  We spent the first hour of our "tour" riding along with them to the plantation, dropping them off, and then heading back to pick up another passenger from his hotel.  It was not very historical.  Our guide did take us out to Folly Beach and drove us through the Isle of Palms.  We saw some beautiful beach houses and a little of the ocean.  We took a trolley selfie.
 We stopped at the Mount Pleasant Visitor Center for the driver's break.  There, we saw a pretty view of the bridge back to the city.
 We also saw some of the Charleston sweet grass baskets.  There were women sitting and weaving these baskets in many of the places we went.  They were beautiful (and expensive!).
 We went back to the trolley to find out that our guide had gotten sick and had called another driver to come get us.  He arrived a few minutes later and drove us back to the Visitor Center.  At that point, we gave up on the trolley tour and decided to eat lunch before we left to return to my parents' house.  We walked several blocks to the restaurant and saw several old churches and buildings along our way.
 We ate lunch at Toast, a restaurant suggested by one of Jim's former students.  Jim got the Deluxe French Toast.  It was a big loaf of French Toast, stuffed with peaches and covered with peach syrup.
 I got the Crab Cake Sammie.  I had hoped to try a crab cake while we were in Charleston, so I tried one on a sandwich.  It was good!
 Since our trolley tour was a failure, we ventured on our own to one last stop, Rainbow Row.  We made it there (with just a few wrong turns).
 We drove past Rainbow Row, and I hopped out at the end to take a few pictures.
 We drove down a little further, parked, and got out to see the water along the Battery.
In spite of the rain, we really did have a nice time on our trip.  It was good to get away, just the two of us, and it was fun to experience a new place together.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Charleston Trip - Day One

While we were in South Carolina last month, my parents kept Drew and Maddie for us so that Jim and I could take an overnight trip to Charleston for a belated anniversary celebration.  We left mid-morning on a very rainy day and made the three-ish hour drive to Charleston.  This was our view for much of the trip. 
 We got to Charleston around 1:00 in the afternoon, so we went straight to lunch.  Jim had done a little research and had found some Charleston restaurants that had been featured on the Food Network.  We ate lunch at Fuel Cantina.
The rain had slowed down some, so we decided to eat out back on the covered patio.  The patio had some fun paintings on the walls and lots of palm trees and other plants.

 My lunch date (and husband of 11 years!).
 We ordered some hoe cakes as an appetizer.
 Jim got the Caribbean Jerk sandwich,
 and I got the braised pork tacos.  We both enjoyed our food and we were stuffed when we left.
 After lunch, we drove to Mount Pleasant for a historical boat tour.
 Our tour boat was docked right next to the USS Yorktown, so we got to get a good look at that ship.

 We chose to sit on the top deck of our tour boat, but as soon as the tour began, it started pouring!  We were all getting wet, and we could hardly hear the tour guide.  We decided to move down to the enclosed lower deck, and we ended up staying there for the rest of the tour.  It was a little disappointing to be inside and for it to be so rainy during our tour.  We were able to see Fort Sumpter, and our guide (a retired history teacher) was very knowledgeable about the history of the city of Charleston and the Civil War.  I had hoped to see some dolphins - one lady on the tour said she did, but we did not.
After the tour, it was still raining, and since we were a little tired of being wet and rained on, we decided to go check into our hotel before dinner.  On our way to the hotel, we got a little turned around, and we saw a big thrift store.  Knowing my love of thrift store shopping, Jim suggested that we check it out.  We found several things for Drew and Maddie, and I found a vintage Pyrex mixing bowl for 99 cents.  I couldn't resist!
After thrifting and getting settled into our hotel, we drove back into Charleston for dinner.  We ate at Hominy Grill (another Food Network restaurant).  Hominy Grill was right across the street from Fuel Cantina, where we ate lunch.  We thought we had put the wrong address in the GPS when we first arrived, but we realized that the two restaurants were actually neighbors!
 I loved the little flower arrangements in the Mason jars on each table.
 Jim ordered the "Nasty Biscuit," a fried chicken and gravy biscuit sandwich, and he really liked it.
 I got the Shrimp and Grits.  The Food Network had listed this dish as the best shrimp and grits in Charleston.  It was absolutely delicious!
After dinner, we headed back to our hotel for the night.  We were tired and ready to relax and get out of the rain for a while.
I will be back later this week to share the second day of our Charleston trip.