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An Afternoon at the Zoo – The Summer Chronicles





One fine summer afternoon we were invited by our friends Stacey, Kate, and Chloe to go to the zoo. Unfortunately I had to decline since we don’t have a zoo pass this year. But then Stacey told me her pass got in not only her family, but enough people that my entire family could go too!


Kate is one of Olivia’s favorite friends at school and in our neighborhood.

So off we went to brave the 100 degree heat of a July afternoon spent wandering the Hogle Zoo.


This is Chloe, Everett just LOVES her. She is so nice, and he is such a sensitive soul, he appreciates nice.


The zoo was having a “Lego” exhibit, where there were lego creations around the zoo, including these photo panels.


The zoo was under construction so about half of it was closed. That might be a good thing since then it was only half as big to walk around (remember, it was over 100 degrees that day!) but then the part that was open was the hilly bottom half. So we had to walk up and down hills to get to the various exhibits – very hot. Still, there were water features and places to sit in the shade every so often. And I thoroughly believe children do not feel it like the grown-ups do, because they didn’t seem nearly as concerned with the hot as with seeing the next animal!

It was really a fun afternoon, and I’m grateful to Stacey for the invite. It was a great summer day!



My only disappointment in the afternoon was that the polar bear wasn’t in his exhibit. The zoo got the polar bear about a year ago, just after our last pass expired, so we’ve never seen it. And we still haven’t! This lego statue was as close as we got.

On the Garden




Tomato Basil Pasta using fresh basil from my garden. I’m so sorry you don’t have smellernet, because this dish made my kitchen smell divine! I’ll share the recipe at the end of the post.

I haven’t mentioned how the garden is coming along . . .

Well, it’s a mixture of success of disappointment. I’ve learned some things for the future.

Things I Have Learned:

1) If you don’t “thin” out your plants properly, the plants themselves will be thin and under developed.

In my zeal to have things grow this year, I placed between 3-5 seeds in each hole. I did this on the sunflowers, the corn, and the zinnias. In the past I have only put 1 seed in each hole, and they have sprouted . . . incompletely. I really wanted my sunflowers to finally be a full row (instead of the interspersed ones I have always had) and I had trouble with my corn last year as well. So this year I figured – the more the merrier!

This would probably be true, but everything I read on packaging and my faithful gardening resource, google, said to thin out your plants when they’re 3-5 inches tall. I never did.

Because then I felt this hope that the more plants would be more awesome.

Then my neighbor Rick came over and commented on how thin the individual plants were. I didn’t tell him that I hadn’t pulled my extra plants to allow one per to grow thick and strong.

But I had also noticed my sunflowers were having the same problem. They were two feet high, but thin as a pencil. That’s not right.

So I went out and finally thinned them out. We will see if they correct themselves at this point or if I will have to wait till next year to have a beautiful row of sunflowers. *SIGH*



2) Wave Petunias -ahem- suck. I bought them at Costco because they were a great price – $10/flat. I read on my gardening resource, google, that they were great for pottings and hanging baskets, but didn’t say much about putting them in the ground except one thread on a forum that said they did great in the ground too.

But they’re horrible. Regular petunias mound and spread and fill in over the summer. My wave petunias have hardly moved. They look spindly and flat instead of mounded and full. They don’t have as many blooms on the plants. I am very disappointed in them. I will not be doing wave petunias again.


Other things in the garden are doing wonderfully. All my vegetables are taking off. I need to read up on how to help my peppers produce better, but other than that, everything seems on course. My zuchinis and squashes are going gang busters, and in about ten days I expect to have 15-20 squashes. We have used the lettuce for salads and burgers for all of our barbeques of the past week (we’ve been to three in the past week).


We had a spring crop of peas. They we delicious. The kids (and I) enjoyed picking them and eating them as snacks when ever we were outside. But we didn’t really get enough to can. Maybe I will plant more next year. It just is kinda a bummer because they take up room in the garden, then they finish, but it’s too late to plant something else. Also, they didn’t trellis well at all. I will have to work on that for next year.

And now, for that recipe that I know you’re dying to try!


Tomato Basil Pasta

Total Time: 25 minutes

Yield: It feeds my family of 6

Tomato Basil Pasta


  • 1/2 - 3/4 lb. Pasta of choice. It doesn't matter, just what ever you have on hand.
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Shy 1/2 cup of Olive Oil
  • Tomatoes. I used grape cut in half, you could use any just cut them into about 1 to 1/2 inch pieces
  • Handful of fresh basil
  • Fresh mozzarella cut into 1/2 inch pieces


  1. Cook pasta in salt water (you want your water to be like sea water, so don't be shy with the salt).
  2. While your pasta is cooking, heat your olive oil in a pan. Add your smashed garlic and let it warm until it's fragrant. Don't let it get brown! (Brown garlic = yuck!) When the garlic is really starting to be pungent, add your tomatoes, and let them warm through. You don't want them to break down too much, just get warm and a little juicy. Add your cooked pasta. If it's a little dry, add just a little bit of your pasta water. (It might be a little dry depending on how juicy your tomatoes are - this is just a judgement thing). Finally, tear up your basil and add your mozzarella, and stir together into your serving dish.
  3. This is so fresh, and so tasty. It is perfect for a summer evening. It's fast, light, and easy!


Dinner List




This is a master list of meals we eat on a semi-regular basis. For the most part these are dishes I can make from scratch and from memory without having to look at my recipes (although I do have recipes for almost all of these), because I make them on such a regular basis. I hope to, over time, add the recipes and pictures to my blog as a collection for my own reference and to share with anyone who might be interested.

But the main reason I’m make this list here is to that at three o’clock each day, when I think “what should I make for dinner?” and I have my inevitable brain freeze and can’t think of a single thing, I can pull this list up and figure something out!!

Dinner Ideas:

  • Homemade Pizza
  • Sweet & Sour Hawaiian Haystacks
  • Minestrone soup & sandwiches
  • lemon chicken pasta
  • garlic chicken
  • ranch chicken
  • stir fry
  • enchiladas
  • fajitas
  • homemade chili
  • corn chowder
  • food storage stoup
  • lasagna
  • tomato basil pasta
  • chicken alfredo
  • penne rosa
  • baked ziti
  • stroganoff
  • chicken cordon bleu
  • tuna casserole
  • shepherds pie
  • ribs
  • pot roast
  • steak
  • chicken curry
  • barbacoa burritos
  • parmesean crusted tilapia
  • hamburgers
  • sloppy joes
  • chicken wraps
  • stuffing casserole
  • homemade mac n cheese
  • lime chicken tacos
  • pulled pork sandwiches
  • manicotti
  • meat loaf
  • balsamic chicken
  • morrocoan chicken
  • thai pineapple chicken curry
  • chicken divan
  • quiche



  • baked squash
  • muffins
  • cornbread
  • refried beans
  • garlic bread
  • green salad
  • tomato cuke salad
  • stuffed grape leaves
  • summer salsa
  • corn on the cob
  • mashed potatoes
  • twice baked potatoes
  • potato salad
  • cous cous
  • steamed veggies



  • banana cream pie
  • red velvet cake
  • cake bites
  • cheese cake
  • brownies
  • zucchini bread
  • choco chip cookies
  • oatmeal raisin cookies
  • pumpkin bread
  • pumpkin choco chip cookies
  • pears & cheese

Dinner Menu For The Week {#1}




So, one of the things I’m pretty good at in life is making dinner. Laundry – not so much (although I am on load #2 for the day as I type this).

Dinner is easier for me because:

1) I don’t mind cooking (usually)

2) I like to eat (always)

But I’m always scratching my head, trying to think: “What should I make for dinner tonight?!”

There are the staples that show up regularly at our house: Lemon Chicken Pasta, Chicken Enchiladas, Stroganoff, and in the summer, hamburgers – easy, have everything in the cupboard sort of meals. We eat those like once every two weeks. But for some reason, if I go more than that, I feel bad. Like I’m not giving my poor family enough variety.

It should be said I cook according to what sounds good to me. I know there are some things Wyatt doesn’t love. I know there are things the kids just plain don’t like. But I make it, so I make what I want to eat. I have tried to tone it down a little over the years – last fall I went on a curry kick, and we were having curry like once a week. Now it’s only once in a while, and I try to make it very mild so the kids don’t have to cry through dinner.

This is getting mo’ rambling.

So in an effort to try and curb the brain effort that goes into “making dinner” I’m creating a little menu for myself. I’m going to list 10 menu plans, with a good mix of slightly complicated to super easy meals so that depending on my mood/time/schedule I will be able to choose seven of these through out the week, have the ingredients on hand, and be able to make dinner without having to worry about it.

Menu #1

Meal 1:
Corn on the Cob

Meal 2:
Marinated Chicken
Marinated BBQ Veggies
Barbequed Bananas

Meal 3:
Ranch Chicken
Steamed Veggies

Meal 4:
Pasta Primavera
Steamed Veggies
Eclair Dessert

Meal 5:
Pulled Chicken Sandwiches
Steamed Veggies

Meal 6:
Shepherd’s Pie
Steamed Veggies

Meal 7:
Braised Balsamic Chicken
Rosemary Red Potatoes
Green Salad

Meal 8:
Chicken Fajitas
Mint Brownies

Meal 9:
Chicken Tagine

Meal 10:
Pot Roast
Potatoes, Carrots, Onions & Celery