Taking our Finnish Student to "Little Sweden, U.S.A."

Lindsborg, KS

My friend and I decided to take a day trip to a little town called Lindsborg, Kansas! We were amused about taking my exchange student Maria to a little town in Kansas that is all about Sweden!! – – how ironic is it to take a Finnish girl (who can walk to Sweden from her house in Finland) to Lindsborg! My Daughter also came on the outing and what a wonderful day we had! The little town of Lindsborg was absolutely fantastic!

http://www.lindsborgcity.org/

Lindsborg has a Main Street filled with cute shops, amazing galleries and restaurants. The most fun thing to see was the painted Dala horses that lined the streets. Each were painted to match the store that they were in front of. How fun!!

Lindsborg, KS

Lindsborg, KS

What is a Dala horse?
Its perhaps Sweden’s best known icon, a bluntly rounded, tail-free horse that is thought to have been first whittled out of wood by the fire during long cold Scandinavian nights. In recent years, Lindsborg adopted the Dala symbol of Swedish folk craft as a symbol of identity and welcome. Here you’ll see traditional Dala horses on front porches, on coffee mugs and even on the side of police cruisers.

Lindsborg, KS

Lindsborg, KS

Lindsborg, KS

Lindsborg, KS

Lindsborg, KS

We came upon a gallery that had a coffee shop in the back. We decided that sitting for a treat would be nice but what a surprise to find a self serve bake shop and coffee where you left your money in a basket.

Lindsborg, KS

Lindsborg, KS

We were the only people in the coffee shop and the atmosphere was so sweet.

Lindsborg, KS

Lindsborg, KS

Maria was smiling from ear to ear when we found this shop filled with treats from Finland. She did find it very odd to see Finnish souvenirs in all the shops.

Lindsborg, KS

Lindsborg, KS

Lindsborg, KS

We had lunch at “The Old Grind” restaurant. It was delicious.

Lindsborg, KS

Lindsborg, KS

Check out this license plate!

Lindsborg, KS

I can’t wait to go back to this little Swedish town again, it was really neat!

Homemade Oatmeal Pancakes

oatmeal pancakes

I must confess, I have never made homemade pancakes before. Aunt Jemima have been the only pancakes served by me!! Now that I have made these Oatmeal Pancakes and found out how EASY they were to make and how DELICIOUS they tasted, I think I will be making homemade pancakes again.

WHAT has taken me so long?

Oatmeal Pancakes

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 2 cups (500 mL) Milk
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp. (15 mL) packed brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. (15 mL) baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. (2 mL) salt
  • 1/2 tsp. (2 mL) ground cinnamon
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) butter, melted
  • Butter, for cooking

Directions

In a large bowl, combine rolled oats and milk, let stand 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.

Whisk eggs and 1/4 cup (60 mL) butter into milk mixture until blended. Pour over flour mixture and stir just until combined.

Heat a large non stick skillet over medium heat. Brush with a thin layer of butter. Ladle about 1/4 cup (60 mL) batter per pancake into skillet. Cook for 2 to 3 min or until bottoms are golden and edges look dry; turn and cook for 1 to 2 min longer or until golden and puffed. Repeat with remaining batter, adjusting heat as necessary to prevent burning.

  recipe from: http://www.dairygoodness.ca/milk/my-milk-calendar/recipes/farm-favourite-oatmeal-pancakes

Oatmeal Pancakes

I am usually not a huge fan of pancakes. Yes, I will eat them now and then but they are never my first choice. However, that has changed now since I have eaten the Oatmeal pancakes! They were very good!

Do you make homemade pancakes?

A Simple Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Grilled Cheese

Maria (our exchange student from Finland) has been a joy to feed! thank goodness!! When we were deciding whether or not to have a student we looked through lots of profiles. There were a lot of kids with allergies and lots that were vegetarians. I decided that I (the chief cook) wouldn’t deal very well with someone living in our home that had too many food rules. That would have meant making a huge change to accommodate a student’s needs. 

Maria has been willing to eat everything we have given her so far. Most of the time she seems to like it (unless she is just not saying) ha ha I did have fun the first few days, feeding her stuff and then waiting for her reaction. I also took her to the grocery store so she could see everything and help choose some items that she may like.

During the first week I made her a grilled cheese sandwich which she seemed to like. Last week we had them again for lunch and so I showed her how to make her own. She says it is something she can make when she goes home to Finland.

Grilled Cheese Sandwich

A grilled cheese sandwich for lunch is simple and delicious.

This recipe is for Maria;

Ingredients

  • 2 slices of bread
  • butter
  • cheese of your choice. We used cheddar cheese slice and provolone.

Directions

  • Spray your frying pan with some non-stick spray.
  • Butter the outside of the bread. Put the bread butter side down in the frying pan. Put the cheese on and top it with the 2nd slice of bread. Butter on the outside!
  • Grill in the pan until toasty and the cheese has melted.
  • Slice and enjoy!

Map Wall Hanging

map art

This map became “art” for my exchange student’s bedroom wall. It happened by accident. I was at the craft store looking at scrapbook paper for another project. I picked up this piece with a map of the United States (with Alaska all in the wrong place …??!! which my friend pointed out)  Anyway, the colours were good for the room and I thought it was a terrific idea to have art that would allow our Finnish student to look at it and see where she is in the United States.

map art

I bought one of these cheap little snap together picture frames. With my coupon, the whole project cost less than $5.00.

map art

To give it a little pizazz, I added some sparkle to the state of Kansas and I marked the spot where we are with a star. (in the general area, anyway …)

map art

Then I outlined Kansas with red and marked **You are here!** at the bottom.

map art

I was really pleased with this little idea!

map art

I hope she is too ~

Sharing my Mixed Media Canvas

mixed media canvas

Here is the canvas I made for our exchange student from Finland. I made this art to hang over her bed in her bedroom. I chose this saying because I believe it is true that your home is wherever your heart may be. So in our student Maria’s case, a piece of her heart is probably in Finland and soon, as she becomes more comfortable, a piece of her heart will be here in Kansas with us.

I chose a bright green for the canvas and bright pink and purple so it would be youthful and fun.

mixed media canvas

The heart represents the world and on the east side is a house in Finland. It is blue made from snowflake paper and there are mountains in behind (they are hard to see) I also did snowflakes falling from the sky.

On the west side is a home in the United States in red, white and blue. This house is special; it has a Canadian Maple Leaf on the roof!! The house stands in the tall prairies grasses and the hot sun shines down.

mixed media canvas

The two homes are joined by a banner of American style flags that welcome our Finnish student to the United Kansas.

mixed media canvas

I covered the large heart in smaller hearts and I love the texture that if brings!

mixed media canvas

Have a wonderful week-end!

Sunflower Love in Kansas!!

Sunflower

I was excited that the SUNFLOWER was the State flower when I moved to Kansas. I love Sunflowers! I love the colour, I love the big cheerful sunflower face and they just represent “happy” in my opinion. We planted a few sunflower seeds in our back garden and we were pleasantly surprised when 2 flowers sprouted up.

Sunflower

Sunflower

Last week I read an article in the Wichita Eagle Newspaper about sunflowers and I would like to share it with you.

These are the glory days of sunflowers.

August is when crop sunflowers in Kansas are in full bloom. The endless fields of yellows and greens last only seven to 14 days before the flowers begin to drop petals and droop, waiting for late September and October when the combines roar across the fields.

Their seeds will be used for cooking oil, snack products and birdseed. Kansas comes in third nationally by annually harvesting more than 100,000 acres of sunflowers.

These crop sunflowers should not be confused with the Kansas state symbol, the Helianthus annuus. If you take the back road in almost any of state’s 105 counties, you will see the smaller, wild, uninhibited sunflowers standing in defiance of winds, drought, rains and almost anything else Kansas weather can throw at them.

When the sunflower was declared the state flower in 1903, Kansas lawmakers declared: “This flower has to all Kansans a historic symbolism which speaks of frontier days, winding trails, pathless prairies, and is full of the life and glory of the past, the pride of the present, and richly emblematic of the majesty of a golden future.”

Read the original article from the Wichita Eagle Newspaper here : http:  www.kansas.com/news/local/article1320933.html#storylink=cpy  

I was surprised to learn that the big sunflowers are grown in Kansas but they are not the state flower!! The State flower is actually a smaller sunflower that just grows wildly. We were recently on a drive out of the City and we saw thousands of these sunflower wildflowers at the side of the road! They were amazing to see blowing in the wind. They were so pretty! I have lived here for 2 years and I did not know about the little wild sunflowers and I have never even noticed them before! (to see them you just need to head out on some back roads in Kansas) 

Here are my photos of the wild sunflowers. This patch grows along a bicycle path near my house.

Sunflowers

Sunflowers

Sunflowers

I love Sunflowers even more now!

Bedroom for Maria

teenager's bedroom

I thought I would share some photos of the bedroom we got ready for our exchange student from Finland, Maria. First of all, we gave it a fresh coat of blue paint. It was my son’s old room and although he only lived in it for a year, it was used by the previous owner’s teenaged son too. I used bedding that I already had. I bought the comforter as a set for a real bargain price to spruce up our home in Canada when it was for sale. I decided it would do perfectly for our guest.

The little heart mirror did get hung on the wall after we saw how high it needed to be for Maria to see into it. We bought the little bedside table at one of my favourite antique malls. You can find such good deals on small pieces of furniture if you need something!

teenager's bedroom

I came up with some other ideas to make the bedroom more cosy.

We put a little desk in the corner with a desk calendar for the year and a bookshelf that she can use for her own things.

teenager's bedroom

The walls were bare so I made this “M” wall hanging. I blogged about it already and you can read it here.

Modge podge Initial wall hanging

I also made a mixed media canvas for over her bed. It has been awhile since I made one, and it was so much fun! I will share the details in another blog.

mixed media canvas

I framed this scrapbook page which is a map of the United States. Stay tuned for the details on this easy project too.

Map wall hanging

My Daughter thought we needed a few American things in the room so we bought these stars on clearance after July 4th. The globe seemed appropriate for her room too. (we already owned it)

teenager's bedroom

My cousin passed these next 2 little items on to me, so we are sharing them with Maria while she is here.

teenager's bedroom

teenager's room

teenager's bedroom

Traveling across the globe!

teenager's bedroom

I picked up this little ‘M’ on sale and I put a postcard in it!

teenager's bedroom

I bought Maria this little teddy bear, because what girl does not love a teddy?

teenager's bedroom

His crazy colours kind of went with the room.

teenager's bedroom

I put together a basket of snacks for the first week or so, just in case she was hungry in the middle of the night!

teenager's bedroom

I have a lovely collection of hotel soaps and shampoos so I left her a few of those too, to get her started.

teenager's bedroom

Lastly, we had thrown some sunflower seeds in our garden outside the bedroom windows. Only 2 of them came up and one is right in front of Maria’s bedroom.

teenager's bedroom

WELCOME to Kansas!

Tortellini with Roasted Cauliflower and Tomatoes

tortellini with roasted cauliflower and tomatoes

I made something new for dinner this week! This recipe is actually pretty simple! I LOVE, LOVE roasted vegetables so this recipe looked promising! I adapted this recipe from an original recipe from an old Milk Calendar of recipes. They do have some great recipes and the website is called; www.dairygoodness.ca

For this recipe, I roasted cauliflower and cherry tomatoes that were drizzled with a bit of butter!

 tortellini with roasted cauliflower and tomatoes

 tortellini with roasted cauliflower and tomatoes

 tortellini with roasted cauliflower and tomatoes

They came out of the oven looking delicious and they smelled wonderful!

The other main ingredient to this recipe is fresh or frozen tortellini. That is easy!!

 tortellini with roasted cauliflower and tomatoes

Are you ready to get cooking? Here is the recipe!!

Ingredients (4 servings)

  • 4 cups of cauliflower florets
  • 2 cups of cherry tomatoes
  • 4 cloves of garlic (I used minced garlic from a jar)
  • 1-2 tbsp. of melted butter
  • 1 package of fresh or frozen tortellini (350 grams) – I used a 3 cheese tortellini
  • 2 tbsp. of all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. of dried or fresh thyme /sprigs of fresh thyme tossed in with the vegetables
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 cups of milk (I used 1%)
  • 1/4 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 450’F. On a baking sheet, toss cauliflower, tomatoes,fresh thyme, garlic and butter. Keep the garlic cloves (if using) to one side. I just tossed my minced garlic right into the mixture. Roast for about 20 minutes stirring twice. The cauliflower will be brown and the tomatoes will burst open.
  • Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling water, cook the tortellini according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  • Put the milk into the pasta pot. Whisk the flour, thyme, salt and pepper into the the milk. Bring it to a boil slowly, whisking constantly. Reduce heat and boil gently for about 3 minutes until it thickens. Remove from the heat. Mash up the garlic cloves(if using) and stir into the sauce and season with more pepper and salt if needed. Stir in the vegetables.
  • Divide tortellini between dinner plates and pour the sauce over the top and sprinkle it with parmesan cheese.

 tortellini with roasted cauliflower and tomatoes

Here is the sauce, which is a simple sauce made from milk.

Pour the sauce over top of the tortellini … parmesan cheese it still to come!

 tortellini with roasted cauliflower and tomatoes

This was a hearty dish!! We did not even miss not having any meat! Plus the leftovers were just as tasty!

 tortellini with roasted cauliflower and tomatoes

Our new Daughter from Finland

foreign exchange student

If you read my last blog, you know that I recently sent my middle child off to University! I had gone from a Mom to three down to just one. I LOVE being a Mom, so it is a hard transition for me to undertake. I am happy to report that the number has just increased since we have added a new Daughter to our family for this school year!!

It all began in the winter when my husband and Daughter went to an evening event at the high school. They were approached by a lady looking for families to host students and give them the “American Experience”. Of course, that is the funniest part of all because we are Canadian! Anyway, she managed to get my husband to give her our phone number. He thought maybe this experience would cheer me up about my kids moving on. As they arrived home that evening, my Daughter ran into the house waving a piece of paper about the exchange and shouting, “We got you a NEW KID!!!”

I was not looking for a new kid and I had never thought about hosting a student for a year either. I was very apprehensive about the whole thing at first. However, I decided it was at least worth considering so I spent some time thinking about it and I asked A LOT of questions. The one thing I know for sure is that sometimes you need to take a chance on something! It could turn out to be the most wonderful experience you have ever had! If you don’t jump in, you will be missing out!  It was this mindset that finally led me to the decision to give this a chance!

The next step was to look at profiles of girls that might fit nicely into our family. We finally happened upon MARIA from Finland. She had a lot in common with my own Daughter which I thought was important. She wrote us a letter and she sounded like a down to earth and kind and sweet person. We decided that she was the one, and the process continued!

Once everything was confirmed, we began writing to Maria and her Mom and they wrote to us too. It gave us a chance to learn more about each other and to ask questions about a little bit of everything!!

As the time got closer to Maria’s arrival, we got a spare bedroom ready for her and we thought of ways to welcome her. My Daughter made the big sign to welcome her at the airport.

Maria has been here for 3 weeks and she is settling in pretty well. I have shared my blog with her and she has agreed to allow me to share her story! I hope that it will be a fun read for you plus for her and maybe her friends and family too. We have lots to learn about each other and hopefully a lot of fun experiences ahead.

I am excited to share our journey with you!!

Thanks for reading and I wish you a wonderful week!!

The Teddy Bear stayed behind!

teddy bear

It was a a little over a year ago that my middle child left the nest! After moving with us from Canada to Kansas, he was terribly unhappy here. It was a very difficult decision but we agreed to let him move back to Canada to live with his grandparents to finish his senior year of high school. My husband and I were very sad to let him go, but we really just wanted him to be happy.

On the day he was packing I walked into his room and there was his teddy bear sitting on top of the bed looking at me. I imagined that he was feeling rather sad too.

teddy bear

The teddy bear was such a reminder of my Son’s childhood! He loved that bear so much when he was little and it was bittersweet to see him sitting on top of the bed. It reminded me of all the happy times I had as a Mom of 3 little ones. Sigh.

The teddy bear did not get to move back to Canada. He was left behind and I can’t say I am sad about it, I sort of like seeing him every now and then.

This week-end my son is moving on again. He is heading off to University and facing a whole new adventure. It’s exciting and a bit scary too.  My husband made the trip to help him move and sadly, I had to stay home with my Daughter and to go to work. I am thinking about them though and looking forward to barking out some orders about where to put stuff on Skype tomorrow.

I am hoping my son has an amazing experience but if he needs his teddy bear, I  am keeping him safe right here with me, and I am willing to send him at a moments notice. <3