Friday, October 22, 2010

Painting Class - Where I Learn That I Still Have Zero Artistic Talent

You know all of that artistic ability that my Mom and my Aunt have?  It skipped a generation because I have zero.

Recently, Groupon ran a deal for a painting class.  Bring your own alcohol, we supply the rest type of a place.  So, I bought two of them and Tony and I scheduled a time to attend the class.  I was expecting it to be like all of the others that I've seen advertised in South Louisiana where everyone paints the same picture.  This one is a little different.  They pick a theme and put up 50 or so inspiration photos and you paint whatever you want within that theme.  I was just expecting to pick out paint colors!

The beginning of my masterpiece.

The beginning of Tony's masterpiece.  He didn't use one of the inspiration photos.  Instead, he borrowed my phone and pulled up a picture of Jackson Square.

See what I meant about my lack of artistic ability?  I just don't understand how paints mixed together or how to make different strokes with the brushes.  Also, I'm more of a color within the lines type of person.  The whole mixing of colors thing is too out of the box for me!

Tony's completed masterpiece. 

He made fun of mine, so I told him that his horses looked like dogs.  Tony also knows me well.  He brought glitter to add to our skies to make "stars."  Everyone in the class including the instructors loved the inclusion of glitter!

My completed masterpiece.  I'd like to take full credit, but I simply can't.  Mine was awful.  Seriously, by far the worst in the class.  Sarah the Instructor took pity on me and "helped" me fix it.  So, the only reason why this is even halfway decent is because of her assistance.  Thank you!

We took pictures of some of the others in our class, but I won't post them out of embarrassment.  Seriously, there were some super talented people in our class. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Apple Pecan Cake

You should probably sit down before you read anymore of this blog.  The recipe above?  Yes, that one.  I baked it!  No, seriously.  I really did.  And the world didn't even end.
After I picked so many Granny Smith apples, I needed to do something with them.  I decided to use a recipe book that my in-laws had gotten us years ago and bake this apple pecan cake.  I even peeled the apples!  Tony wouldn't let me chop them up though.  Something about not wanting to go to the hospital after I chopped off a finger or two.  It was probably best that he did it.

The finished product!  

We had some batter left over, so we made a few muffin size
cakes as well.  You can't really tell by the picture, but all of them are in the design of a rose thanks to the pretty mold that I found 
stashed away in our cabinets.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Eckert's Orchard

We went apple picking!!!!  You can probably tell that I was pretty excited about this.  Tony, not so much.  This was a first for both of us.

Last Saturday, Tony and I ventured to Eckert's Farm and Orchards in Belleville, Illinois.  It's a small town approximately half an hour from here.  They do operate two other farms nearby.

The farm in Belleveille sits on what is known as Turkey Hill.  The Eckert family has lived there since 1890 and planted their first apple trees that same year.  In 1910, the family opened its first roadside farm stand.  Today, the sixth and seventh generations of the family now oversee the operations on all three farms.

Waiting on the next trailer to arrive to take us out to the orchards.  Tony would like you to observe how many people are here to pick their own apples early on a chilly Saturday morning.

Riding out to the orchard!  It's a lovely piece of property.  I was surprised not to see more fall colors in the trees that line the edge of the orchards.  I'm wondering if it is because it has been so mild here.

Apples!!!  We went pretty late in the season and only two apples were still being harvested - Fuji and Granny Smith.  We looked at the harvesting calendar and have learned that we need to go in mid-September when there are several choices available.

Tony making fun of the apple picking.  Seriously, I think that he would have preferred to see the Princess Diana dress exhibit 10 times in a row instead of picking apples.  I'll refrain from including the things that he said throughout the day. 

The big, black thing on his belt?  Yeah, that's one of his mini-digital tv's so that he could watch football while we were apple picking.

Tony when he wasn't hamming it up for the camera.  As much he complained, I think that he had a much better time than he'll ever admit.

Fuji Apples - I had never tried them before, but they are quite delicious.

Granny Smith apples - I wasn't aware that these are primarily used for baking since their taste is a little bitter and tart.  Since I normally prefer green and yellow apples, I picked a lot of these.  Maybe I'll bake something.

And a trailer returns to pick you up!  Our trailers (including the two middle benches) were completely packed on both the trip out to the apple orchards and on the way back.  The good thing is that the property is so large, you are essentially on your own as you wander through the trees picking apples.

We sat across from a family of 4 decked out in Bama (yuck) gear on the way back to the main area.

Again, Tony would like you to observe just how many people are waiting in line for the trailers to go pick their own apples.

Inside their general store.  They have expanded what was once their roadside farmers stand into this large general story.  It includes a bakery, meat shop, deli, as well as a farmer's market area where you can find fresh fruits and vegetables.  We got a few things including one of their jars of homemade jelly for me.

Next to the general store is a custard shop where they make custard from their farm animals.  We didn't get a chance to try it, but it seemed to be quite popular.

Their two restaurants are located down this walkway.  I had never had fried biscuits or apple butter before.  I wasn't a big fan of the fried biscuits, but the apple butter was pretty delicious.

In addition to the general store, custard stand, and restaurants, they also have a petting zoo, camel rides (yes, camel rides at an apple orchard in rural Illinois), and kiddie sized carnival rides.  It's definitely a very friendly place!  I can't even imagine how much money they take in on a busy weekend.  All three of the huge parking lots were filled and they were parking people in a field by the time that we left!

He was performing in the outdoor patio area.

They have pumpkins that range in size from little bitty all the way up to pumpkins that weighed 150 pounds.  If you can't find one that you like here, you should just give up!

The pick your own pumpkin fields.

Sugar approved of our $10 apple haul.  I would have gotten more, but Tony took my bag away.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Great Mice Race and More

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I'm not really sure why this is part of the Birds of Prey show, but it was pretty hilarious.  They were very clear when picking children that a mouse would be crawling all over them.  Tony kept trying to raise my hand.  I don't really think that anyone is going to mistake me for a 5 year old kid!  Plus, I'd never let one of those icky things touch me.

The poor first girl.  The mouse wouldn't leave her hair.  It was quite content to just hang out in her hair all day.  Gross!!!! 

As soon as I stopped the video, the second girl who never touched the mouse immediately ran out of the area and back to the safety of the stands!

We visited Grant's Farm the day after Tony was crowned Brat King.  We couldn't pass up this photo opportunity!

Birds of Prey

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Although this was our third time visiting Grant's Farm, it's the first time that we've watched the Birds of Prey show.

This is the bird in the video and my favorite in the show.  Isn't she gorgeous?

The grand finale was pretty funny.

Grant's Farm - Trip #3

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I really need to remember which way to hold the camera to take video.  I've never seen an elephant so active!  He was at it for a long time, too.  We walked off well before he finally stopped.  You could hear him throughout the park playing with his little tire set.

These donkeys once worked in the Grand Canyon carrying items and people up and down the trails.  Both are in their 40's.

Grant's Farm sits on such a gorgeous piece of land.  I love the little train ride that you take through the property.  Quite peaceful.

A baby buffalo!  He was off grazing by himself.

Look closely and you can see the bald eagle.

This was our first time feeding the donkeys.  I mean... goats.  Ask Tony.  I referred to them as donkeys the entire time that we were there.  After we left the pen, I told him thank you for feeding them with me.  He replied that he couldn't tell me no.  It was too much fun listening to me call the goats donkeys every single time. 

For the record, I know the difference between the two.  I have no real excuse for my mistake except that I'm blonde.

As you can tell, she was really enjoying herself!

You pass Grant's home during the train ride out to the petting zoo area.  It is one of only two houses still in existence that were built by a President.