Wasps

I found something new out about myself last weekend. Wasps can kill me. One bite from one tiny, annoying, asshole (sorry, there’s no better word them at this point in my life) could kill me.

I have been stung by wasps several times in the past twenty years or so, and each time I swelled up more than the average person might, but nothing life threatening or enough to warrant seeking medical help.

As it turns out, though, in a small portion of the population, those stings can make the victim build a worse reaction, a systemic reaction, and I am one of those lucky folks who has hit that benchmark. Thank God, my husband was home last weekend when it happened.

I was mowing behind our house last weekend when I was suddenly stung by a wasp, directly in my temple. I drove away quickly, once I looked around to see what had happened, and grabbed an ice pack in the house. I knew I would start to swell quickly, but expected little else. I walked down to the Andrew, who was working in one of our garages, and helped him get down a piece of siding. In doing so, though, I noticed I felt really dizzy and out of breath. I walked back into the house, and by then could no longer breathe or stand up. The last thing I remember is telling Andrew to go get me some benedryl to see if it would help, and then it all went black. The rest of the story, I know only because he told me.

He called 911, and he and Miss L moved me flat on my back on the floor so I wasn’t all bunched up. I was flopping around and definitely unable to breathe. Other bodily controls turned off then, too. It took nearly 15 minutes for the EMTs to make it to us, and by then I was in bad shape. Our wonderful neighbors saw the ambulance, and came over and took the kids back to their house so they didn’t have to watch everything and Andrew could focus on me. They later brought the kids back over to make sure the dogs and house were okay, put away the supper I had in the crock pot, fed them, and took them up to the hospital much later, once I was stabilized. We are blessed with great people next door.

The EMTs didn’t have easy-to-administer epinephrine, so they fumbled through a syringe to get me my first dose; it would take at least 2 keep me breathing before I got to the hospital. They also put me on oxygen, loaded me into the van, and took me to the nearby town to transfer me to a helicopter to head to the hospital. Andrew drove our car in, and ended up beating me there. We still aren’t sure why the transfer to the helicopter except that it may have been better equipped to deal with my situation. I know that had Andrew not been home or had it been much longer before the EMTs could get there, I would not have survived.

Once at the hospital, they started heavy steroids and monitoring to make sure I was able to start breathing again and my blood pressure would stay up. With my medical history, it seems crazy that I had low bp, but that comes with a severe systemic reaction. The bite happened around 5 p.m. I finally woke up around 9 or 10 p.m. I have no recollection of what happened in between. That’s probably one of the scariest parts of this. I had a CT scan to make sure nothing else was wrong, and then was monitored overnight until I was out of the danger time zone for having a recurrence. The neighbors brought the kdis up for a bit so they could see that I was okay. Andrew took them home later so they could get some rest. My sister came up to visit, and I am pretty sure I had the same conversation with her and asked her the same questions about 5 or 6 times. I just was not all there.

I didn’t really sleep much between the steroids and the pain from two ports in my arm in incredibly awkward spots. I stayed in the ER overnight because the hospital was so full there were no rooms for admittance. The internist sent me home late the next afternoon with a prescription for an epipen set, which will buy us a little time to get to the ER next time, and a renewal of anxiety I haven’t had much trouble with in years, as the realization that being outside is so risky for me now settled in. I am supposed to meet with an allergist to see if immunotherapy will help. I am not sure what to expect there. I used immunotherapy with my ragweed allergy (as well as a few others that were thrown in), and saw no improvement. Many people have a 90% improvement in their venom allergy, though. We’ll see what the doctor thinks.

In the meantime, I feel like an awful mother, sending the kids out of the door first to take a look to make sure there are no wasps waiting for us. It feels so ridiculous to be afraid of one small insect. We have plenty of spray to combat them, and Andrew has been knocking down any nests he can find. Our next step will likely be to use an agricultural insecticide to treat the yard regularly, at least around the house and garages, so I can be outside safely. Otherwise, anything that could be remotely risky, I am avoiding unless another adult is over. Although my older kids can easily take care of calling 911 in an emergency for me or grabbing my epipens, I don’t want that responsibility on them.

So many things are not very safe now. Festivals where there is a lot of outdoor food-wasps are scavengers. All the nooks and crannies and sheds around our yard. Camping. Hiking. There are just so many things that I did all the time and there’s this loss of freedom, so sudden it’s thrown me in a tailspin. I anticipate some selfish sadness for awhile as I come to terms with things. Every time I think about how differently things could have gone Saturday, I end up crying all over again. It’s hard for someone who is so independent to be thrown into a situation where being alone can be so dangerous.

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Nativity Eve of St. John the Baptist

Halfway through the year comes the feast day that marks the birth of St. John the Baptist (June 24th). There are many traditions that are associated with the feast day, including bonfires and water related activities on the eve. We decided it was the perfect evening to <finally> dispose of our Christmas tree and that it seemed very appropriate to use it to start our fire for the eve. It was also a BIG reminder to always water your Christmas trees-ha! That was one fast, hot, big fire starter! We had our usual simple creek-side supper of hot dogs, chips and salsa,  and s’mores, as well as roasting mozzarella and pepper jack cheese sticks, a trick we watched on Parts Unknown.

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Falafel!

One of our favorite things to eat that I so often forget about is falafel. It is rather easy to make and yet I always drag my feet because it takes frying. We eat them with homemade pitas (or this time, actually, we just skipped the pitas) using the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day recipe, tzatziki, and fresh veggies like lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions.

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My basic recipe for falafel is one we found after trying several others that just never equaled what we got at restaurants. Epicurious had one, though, that is perfect. Really. Instead of canned chickpeas, it uses dried ones. And you don’t cook them ahead of time-just soak them overnight. Throw them and all the other ingredients in the food processor, pulse-pulse-pulse, fry, drain, eat. So easy and delicious.

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This is a perfect food to have on hand for meat-free Fridays.

Here are my recipes:

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Falafel:

  • 1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
  • 1/2 large onion, cut into quarters
  • 2 T parsley (dried or fresh)
  • 2 T cilantro (fresh is better, dried is okay)
  • 1 t salt
  • optional: red pepper flake
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 t cumin, ground
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 2-6 T flour (I usually only need 2ish)

Pulse all but the baking powder and flour together until well blended. The beans will still be in small granules, like large sand grains. Sprinkle on the flour and baking powder, then pulse a bit until the mixture starts to clump up just a little. You can honestly err on the side of not enough over too much. I have yet to have any bad batches. Form walnut to golf ball sized balls and fry  in 375 degree oil until dark brown. Drain and eat!

Tzatziki:

  • 3 cups plain yogurt or sour cream
  • 3 T lemon juice
  • 1-2 garlic cloves
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled and seeded, then diced
  • 1 t fresh mint or dill, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Mix it all together and chill.

 

St John Fisher and Rhubarb Scones

Friday (June 22nd) was the feast day for St. John Fisher. We’ve been adding new traditions to our routine as we learn more about the many, many feasts that mark the year. St. John Fisher’s feast day falls right during the height of rhubarb season, and his day is often celebrated with rhubarb since his birth place is in the heart of a major rhubarb growing area. We went with rhubarb scones to mark the day.

St. John Fisher lived during a turbulent era in England for Catholics as King Henry VIII decided to part with the Church over her refusal to grant him a divorce, and refusal to acknowledge the king as the head of Church of England. He ended up being martyred.

The scones we decided to make were these from Taste of Home. They were good-not too sweet for they are perfect for jam. The recipe made 16 small scones, which I topped with some of our silver sugar to make ’em pretty 🙂

Universal Yums: Brazil

We’ve been getting Universal Yums boxes for a few months now and love them. We use them as part of our homeschool geography studies. Which aren’t really studies, since we unschool. This month, UY sent us a box of delicious popular snacks from Brazil! Delicioso!

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The way do our “Universal Yums Night” goes like this:

  • receive the box and learn what that month’s featured country is
  • mom researches some recipes from that country and gets groceries of necessary
  • mom researches some program to watch on Prime or Netflix
  • mom makes delicious supper
  • we watch the show while eating supper
  • we try all the snacks, breaking them into equal portions to try, with extras up for grabs on a side table, and listen to traditional music while eating these and discussing our favorites.

Our family of 6 gets the mid-sized box. I forget what it is (I bought a one year subscription). I think next year, we’ll end up getting the bigger box since as the kids grow, there’ll be more need. And it’s so darn fun-I’m willing to pay for a bit more.

Now, I am a bit of a skeptic when it comes to “box” subscriptions, but I love this one, and I do not regret it. We looked up some of the snacks from the last couple boxes (Poland and the Philippines) and you cannot easily get most of the snacks that come in the box. A few specialty sites carry them. A few are on Amazon. So, it isn’t something I could easily replicate, plus curating something like this isn’t something I have the brain space for.

Down to our Brazil night!

We started with a supper of feijoada, an absolutely delicious stew. I changed the recipe up just a smidge so I didn’t have to go to the store, so the flavor wasn’t completely authentic, but close enough. My changes: I used pork loin instead of shoulder (I had it in the freezer), bacon instead of salt pork (again, it was in the freezer), and some sweet italian sausage instead of Portuguese chorizo (um, because it was in the freezer). And if I make a soup or stew, there’s just no way I am going to dump water in. If you can add flavor, add flavor! So, I used chicken stock instead of water. The kids loved it so much, I’ll be adding it to our rotation. We served it over rice.

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With the stew we had chips and salsa and Brazilian Lemonade, which has no lemons in it. They were delicious, but the younger kids thought it was a bit too bitter. More for the big people!

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Brazil programs that looked interesting were slim, but I finally found Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown had an episode there, and well, with recent events, it seemed appropriate.

Next, the box!

The treats this month included Cory pão dimel (chocolate covered honey bread), Amori 1000 (chocolate covered wafer with coconut filling), Docigoma Gurt (yogurt flavored gummies), Squil churrasco (barbecue corn puffs), Frutabella Goiabikas (guava bar), Amori mousse de limão (wafers with lime mousse), Gelatines Festa (gummies with rainbow sprinkles), Pipoca vivzinha (sweet puffed corn), Delicitos pimenta (pepper crackers), SNACKS! Pimenta calabresa (Calabrian chili crackers), Frutabella Amendoiks (chewy peanut bar), Bananada com Chocolate (chocolate covered banana bar), and Frutabella cokitos (shredded coconut bar).

 

We put on the tunes list UY had curated and ready on their site, so we could listed to Brazilian music while tasting the goodies. Unlike the previous boxes, there was nothing in this bag that we weren’t fans of. It was all delicious. All the pepper items were great, and all tasted different, really highlighting the flavor of the peppers involved. The fruit items were another favorite, especially coconut. I think any of these would be a regular buy for us, if available.

I often go on Amazon when we’re done and put our favorites, if available there, on a wish list for a fun stocking stuff or treat later in the year. Many are kind of pricey to get here in the states, so it takes a special occasion to buy more. We can’t wait until the next month every time we finish the box!

(Miss I is hesitant to try the sweet snacks for some reason. She was all up in the jalapeno crackers, but wouldn’t touch the chocolate covered coconut bar. This is her line up of discarded snacks, ha!)

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Lazy Daisy Cake

Some time back, my sister gave me a collection of my great grandmother’s recipes. My Great Grandma Dorathe was known for her kitchen magic, and at one time even ran a restaurant in Southern Iowa. I have been trying some of her recipes, especially the hand written or beaten up ones where it’s clear she used them many times. Some of the recipes are even her mother, Lena’s, which makes them that much more special. I will have to back post some of the ones I’ve already tried here. I have them posted on WikiTree on a special page, but for whatever reason hadn’t thought of blogging them….but now I have!

Today, I decided to (finally) try her Lazy Daisy Cake recipe. Like so many of her recipes (and so many of mine) the instructions are lacking. She just knew some things like what size pan she needed and what temperature to bake at. I don’t do too badly in the kitchen, so I can generally figure that information out on my own.

This recipe looks to be for an 8 or 9 inch cake pan. I used my pretty red pie plate because it’s pretty. I also used the microwave for much of the heating of ingredients because my sauce pans were all in the dishwasher 🙂

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The kids and I thought it was delicious-and kind of nice that it made a small cake. Perfect for weekday snack time. It looks like it was a favorite in a lot of families many years ago.

Lazy Daisy Cake

makes one-nine inch cake Cake:

  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)

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Beat your eggs and sugar together. Technically you should sift together your flour, baking powder, and salt, but I rarely do. I just kind of mix and fluff them on top of the wet ingredients before I mix them in. So, go ahead and mix them in.

Bring the milk and butter up to a boil on the stove, then beat them into the rest of your batter along with the 1 teaspoon of vanilla if you’re using it (I did).

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Pour everything into a greased pan and place in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. As soon as the cake is done (check this by inserted a toothpick in the center to check if it comes out clean), spread the topping on and broil briefly (about 5 minutes on high in my oven) in the oven to caramelize the topping.

Topping:

  • 5 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cream (I was out, but did have half and half so used it instead)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (if you’re allergic to nuts, leave these out. Nothing you won’t know you’re missing. Or try roasted soy nuts, which I am allergic to, and let me know how it goes.)

Mix all the ingredients together and heat over low heat until melted together. Let it sit until the cake is finished, then spread on. Cut. Plate. Eat. Enjoy.

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Pella Tulip Time

I attended my first Tulip Time with a friend we lived around the corner from in Colfax when DJ was a baby. I quickly found I wasn’t a fan of the crowds at all. I think I went during actual Tulip Time maybe two times after that, once with my mom and once with Andrew. Since then, I take the family ahead of the event when the tulips are in full bloom but there aren’t many people around. It’s so beautiful and opens doors to talk to the kids about their heritage. I’m very Dutch, and Andrew has some of that heritage, too, so we can talk to them about their ancestors, some of whom actually lived in Pella a hundred and fifty years ago. One of these days, I need to search out their actual residence and burial places. For now, we’ll just revel in the beauty of Tulip Time.

We started on the square, where the grandest displays of tulips are, as well as the test beds.

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You know, it’s funny how we live pretty close to Pella, but we don’t really take in what a neat town it is often enough. The square is a bit like a walk back in history with all the buildings that are carefully preserved, the historical village, and the historical homes around town.

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It was a nearly perfect day to visit. We had mid-seventies and sun with intermittent clouds the whole time. It sprinkled at home right as we left, but we didn’t see any more of that the rest of the day. We couldn’t have picked a nicer day.

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It’s hard not to take pictures of *all* the tulips.

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20170425 Tulip Time 018 Next, we walked over to the Molengrat, such a pretty little court and canal. 20170425 Tulip Time 019

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20170425 Tulip Time 027 I never paid attention to the fact that this is the presumed boyhood home of Wyatt Earp. My dad and I were big fans of his, watching movies, reading books, and I wonder if he ever stopped by. 20170425 Tulip Time 023 boyhood home of Wyatt Earp

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Mandatory with each Pella visit is to stop at Ulrich Meat Market for beef sticks and jerky, then on to Jaarsma’s Bakery for all sorts of delicious stuff, not the least of which are Dutch Letters.

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Goodies in hand, we headed to West Market Park, a great place to play and picnic. It has a huge wooden playground the kids love. We laid down a blanket and ate our lunch as well as the goodies we picked up on the square. The kids also brought their scooters to ride, something they try to take advantage of whenever we have paved avenues.

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IE is a big mess maker when it comes to picnicking. Luckily, it’s easy to pick up the blanket and shake it off in the trash.

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We ended the day by stopping by Thiesens for chicks, and we drove around the Sunken Gardens, which feature a wooden clog shaped pond, working windmill, and more tulips. We were ready to head home so we didn’t get out but just cruised by. It all made a nice day, as it usually does!