Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Chapter 30: Wordless Wednesday--Green

Birthday Chacos and my favorite McCoy Pottery flower pot.

Chapter 29: Garden update: First Harvest

We have had our first harvest of 2012! 
This little yellow crookneck squash was not ready on Thursday but was a little bit over-ready when I picked it on Saturday.  They grow so fast! There are 2 more on the vine that will be ready in no time.  The zucchinni squash bushes are big and nice and green but I'm worried they are going to start smothering the hot peppers.  I don't really care for either one of those plants, but Daniel likes them and I don't mind zucchini bread so I make sacrifices to be a good little wife :)

The cucumbers are finally starting to take off but now I don't remember which 2 are pickling vines and which 2 are slicing.  Hopefully I have it noted someplace. I can't wait to be snacking on my own cucumbers.  There is nothing like it in the world.

The tomatoes in the garden were doing so well but then they had little black bugs all over them and the leaves on one bush started to look like they had a fungus. Now they just keep looking worse and worse it seems to be spreading.  I harvested our first red tomato today and it was sort of brown and rotted at the top. It's really disheartening after last year's tomato FAIL. But the 3 bushes in the pot on the back deck are still doing very well (knock on wood), so hopefully I will get to can my own tomatoes yet later this summer. I hope I can figure out a way to save the current tomatoes still.

As for my giant bell is refusing to turn red. I'm not sure if it's just not ready or if I got tricked into buying plants that will just stay green.  Only time will tell.

I finally pulled up a bunch of the first round of lettuce.  It was really quite cute the way they had bolted up so that some of them looked like little lettuce trees but the leaves had turned bitter so up they came.  We have a second round growing that I think will be our last until the fall.  We'll plant more then PLUS try carrots again.  I have 2 random carrot plants that finally decided to grow and I'm determined to grow a bunch when cool weather kicks in.

It has been HOT HOT HOT the past week with no rain in sight.  I have been watering every morning to keep everything alive.  Rain would be a wonderful gift about now. Definitely don't want a repeat of last year.

Overall I'd say the garden is doing ok this year.  I'd give it a solid B or B- at this point.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Chapter 27: It's Alive! A Garden Update

Time for a garden update!  Quick and dirty just for my future reference plus a few questions. And clearly  I had the iPad turned the wrong direction when taking my photos.

The tomatoes are doing pretty well but a few are starting to get these cruddy leaves and I'm not sure why. Hmmm

Strawberry patch! Glad we have the kind that keep producing instead of just one harvest.
BASIL! I'm so proud of this year's basil. This is my best attempt so far. It's definitely Pesto-Time.
Best lettuce crop so far as well.  We are going to have to start eating more salad to keep up.
Daniel bought me a Fuscia at Lowe's the first spring we were dating because we walked by and I exclaimed how pretty it was so he made me let him buy it for me :)  I've gotten another one every spring since and hung it on the front porch and killed it every year.  This year I moved it out back where I actually remember to water it and it's on it's 2nd or third batch of blooms!  I get to look at it more than I would if it was out front too.
I'm still shocked at how well these three tomato plants are doing.  I really did not expect the spindly little sprouts to survive, let alone be thriving the way they are!
Still have Poppies from Daniels' Grandma :)
My little patch of volunteer petunia's is getting big and blooming like crazy! It has lots of weeds around it because I refuse to mow it over so I have to be careful mowing around it.
The cucumbers are still really stunted but they are starting to climb a little.
Sweet little Yellow Squash
I was told I could trellis the zucchini and squash. I think that might have been a terrible falsehood.
I had to stop Daniel from picking this one. I practically threw myself in front of him screaming, "IT HAS TO TURN RED FIRST!!!!!!" This bad boy is going to be delicious!
What's that?  A tiny little soy bean pod waiting to become my Edamame?  Oh yah.
The pumpkin was doing GREAT until we left for the weekend and it got a tiny bit crispy.  Will have to do lots of watering this week to make up for that little mishap.
Also, it's kitten season.  Luna chased a little and mama kitty out from behind the shed this morning so animal control brought by a trap to see if we can catch 'em. Fingers crossed.  It didn't work last time we tried.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Chapter 26: Weekend Update

We have had pretty eventful weekends for several weekends in a row.  Several weeks ago Daniel and I decided to finally bite the bullet after two years of talking about it and we bought ourselves a couple of kayaks!  The only way I could get myself to do it was to call it our 1 year anniversary present, PLUS my birthday (this month) and Daniel's birthday in the Fall.

Our sweet friend Grace gave us the car rack for a wedding gift last year. Thanks, Grace!

Luna was very concerned about Daniel out on the lake testing a kayak without her.

If she had stayed in the kayak with Daniel she wouldn't have been soaking wet and she wouldn't have had to watch from the shore. That's where she swam to when she dove off the boat.
So this weekend we finally got the chance to try out the kayaks as well as Luna's new doggy life-jacket on a float trip with my family.  The river I grew up floating on is about three and a half hours away so we decided to camp too. My uncle and two little cousins camped with us and we had a wonderful time telling scary stories (Hayden promised to "Scare your face off") and making banana boats. Banana Boats=Banana+chocolate+marshmallows+whatever else you have +tinfoil+campfire.  So fun.
This was the most organized we were going to get for a group shot. That's my kayak in the front. Isn't it pretty?

Luna's 2nd time camping.  She slept without her crate for the first time ever and did great in the tent!

Luna is a great car-rider. But she worries when Daniel is in the gas station.
I don't have any photos of Luna riding in Daniel's kayak or mine because our waterproof case broke for the still camera :( We're hoping we can glue the broken piece back together.  I did take the Flip video in its waterproof case so I'll post the video once I get it edited.  Luna did SUCH a great job for her first float trip!  We all came home exhausted and looking forward to doing it again next weekend for my birthday.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Chapter 25: Pizza and Pinterest Friday

OK, so it's a little goofy that we're not making pizza on the Friday night that I institute "Pizza and Pinterest Fridays" but we USUALLY make home made pizza on Friday nights so the name is staying.  The plan is to do a little bit of discussing about whatever pizza we make each Friday and the recipe we use.  We're still searching for just the right dough recipe and I'm pretty sure I keep repeating recipes and wondering why it feels like I can never get it right.  On top of the quick pizza recap (Which is mostly for my own record-keeping) I'll post a Pinterest "Pin of the Week."  Maybe something I have tried out or something that looks cool and I want to try out or maybe even something completely ridiculous.

Tonight I made tacos instead of pizza because Daniel had pizza at Guy's Night last night where they all hung out and watched hours and hours of Alien movies (you know, Sigourney Weaver eating her way out of an alien that ate her. Or something like that) in anticipation of the new one coming out.  Gag.  I am sometimes invited to guys night when it involves movies (I felt like Queen of the Geeks when I went to see the new Star Trek with them) but I declined this time on the grounds that those old Alien movies freak me the frack out.

Tonight's Pin is a recipe from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.  See her pretty pictures? She's way better at photography than I am.  But, I use my iPad for most of my blog photos so I'm going to blame that. Yup.  Not a lack of skills on my part. Nope. Definitely not.

My Tools

You can tell I'm very organic and brand conscious when it comes to spices.  But the almost-empty oregano container is about to get filled with oregano we grew in and dried ourselves. +1 Hippy Point

I followed the directions to the letter. 
Except for the part where I never do that.  Also we are out of cayenne powder.  
We have lots of dried peppers. They just need to be ground up with our zillion pound stone mortar and pestle that we got a TJ Maxx for like $0.17. Or $10.  Whatever it was, it was cheap.
This next picture is where I shook it like a Polaroid Picture.  
But I would never really shake a Polaroid Picture like that because the company said not to.
Although we always did ours and they never burst into flames or anything.
I miss Polaroid Instant Pictures.

This is where I get a tiny bit embarrassed because my container is not a cute half pint mason jar.  
Don't get me wrong.  I have a lot of those.
Two of them currently hold Q-Tips and cotton balls in my bathroom.  I'm so stylish.
I didn't get that from Pinterest.
I think I got it from the Pioneer Woman.
But I might have just made it up.  Maybe.
I really do have a lot of mason jars in varying sizes.
I also just happened to have an empty ground cinnamon container handy and figured I'd do the planet a solid and rock some "Reduce REUSE Recycle" action.

Here is the final product.  
As you can plainly see, I am terrible at food photography.
But the lettuce is from the garden so I had to use this picture to brag on our garden harvest!

And that's my Pin of the Week!  I suggest you hurry over to pin it and/or make it.  And give this Mel character some love on her blog.  The food porn alone is worth the visit. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Chapter 24: Jonah Day

It has been one of those days. Actually it has been a couple of those days. I had a conversation with God on my commute home today (and some of you know the significance of that for me. Never mind actually talking about it publicly.) The results being many thoughts bubbling in my brain and heart that I can't really articulate yet. Maybe/ hopefully soon. We'll see.

Last week was Daniel and my 1 year wedding anniversary. I have had a post brewing for a while since I never did do a wedding post but it will have to wait for a cheerier day.

Instead, please enjoy some photos from the iPad.

1) I can't believe how sweet and little Luna was in November.
2) I thought the tomato sprouts I stuck in this pot would never survive. Boy was I wrong!
3) Strawberry harvests are a few at a time right now but they are perfect sliced up with a banana in a bowl of homemade ice cream.

I leave you with a quote from my dear friend, Anne Shirley and I hope I'm not botching it from memory because I'm too tired to double check it.

"Tomorrow is a new day. With no mistakes in it, yet."

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Chapter 23: Garden surprises make me happy

I have volunteer petunias coming up all over the place. In a pot for the 2nd year in a row as well as all around the new 4x10 raised bed! Those are the biggest surprise and they put such a smile on my face. We also finally have some poppies blooming from seeds we got for Christmas from Daniel's grandmother. They came from her own garden so they are extra special just like our blackberry bush from her house. It's FULL of green blackberries. I see cobbler in our future.

Life is good.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Chapter 22: Couch to 5K

I started running the Couch to 5K last week and I finished the first week of the plan today.  I'm pretty impressed with myself because I have never been much of a runner, but this is a very simple program that tells me exactly what to do and works me up to my goal of running a 5K very slowly. 

The goal is to run the Run to Remember in July benefiting the Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Foundation .  Hopefully running/jogging/walking 3 day a week will give me the added benefit of a few pounds going away so that I can fit back into the stack of summer clothes I have piled up that are too small for me!

The easiest way for me to do this program was to download an app on my phone to help.  I got This One.

I play my own music and a nice lady tells me to run and after 60 seconds she tells me "Good job! Now walk."  And I get to walk for 90 seconds.  I want to ask her to marry me when she tells me to walk.  She is my favorite person in the world at that moment in time.  Next week I'll have to run for more than 60 seconds.  I might curse her on my next run.

The best part of all is my wonderful running buddy!

We have a quick hitch lease that can expand a big loop at the end to hitch your pup to a post or a tree or what-have-you.  It also has the handy ability to make a BIG loop that will go over my right shoulder while Luna walks on my left, leaving me hands-free.  And she is doing an AMAZING job walking and jogging along with me on a loose leash.  I'm so proud of her!  We highly recommend obedience training at the Canine Connection to anyone who will listen!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Chapter 21: How to Make Your Own Butter: And Avoid Manual Labor

A few nights ago I came home from work knowing that I really needed to mow the back yard. It was starting to get out of control.  Daniel mowed the front yard the week before and then he was sick as a dog for several days after. He used to mow my lawn for me sometimes when we were dating and never say a word about it making him sick. The things boys will do to get a girl to make out with them! He waited until I had promised him in public that I'd stick around in sickness and in health and then he started blowing his nose and moping about his head exploding with abandon. Now, because I love him, I keep our medicine cabinet stocked with good drugs and I usually mow the lawn.

Last Thursday night I knew that I needed to mow the jungle in the back yard before I started losing the dog in it when she went out to pee. I stood in the kitchen after work, my husband away at Guy's Night, and I thought about changing into my mowing clothes while I scanned the fridge for dinner. There, on the top shelf, was a brand new carton of heavy whipping cream.

I found myself thinking, "I definitely need to make some homemade butter. NOW." So, instead of mowing, I made butter in my Kitchen Aide Mixer.  I knew in theory that this was possible but I had never tried. It is so easy!

Here is my really difficult and detailed tutorial.

How to Make Your Own Butter at Home From Scratch Just Like Laura Ingalls Wilder if Laura Ingalls Wilder Had a Kitchen Aide Mixer Instead of a Butter Churn

Buy some heavy whipping cream. You can get it from the grocery store.
I don't remember what kind I got but it was not organic or from grass fed cows. I think it might have been store-brand. Nobody was out back giving these cows massages and reading them daily affirmations. (I assume, but who knows) My crunchy friends are probably gagging right now. That's OK. You could also probably buy whole milk with the cream still in it if you know a dairy farmer. I don't know any dairy farmers in Arkansas.  I might in Missouri, though.  Once we had some dairy cows on the family farm my Aunt lives on.  I helped her with milking a couple of times.  You have to get up really early in the morning. Every. Single. Day.  I will never be a dairy farmer. Instead I buy store-brand heavy whipping cream at IGA.

Step 2
Pour your whipping cream (non-organic or otherwise) into your mixing bowl. Don't use the biggest container they have at the store. I used the middle one and I think it would have made a big mess splashing if I used the big one.  I probably should have told you that when I told you to buy some.  If you already bought the giant one, just don't use it all at once.

Step 3
Use the whisk attachment and crank 'er up. Don't be afraid to bring her all the way up to 6 or 8, she's a Kitchen Effing Aid Mixer. She's tough. Ten got a little splashy for me, though.

Step 4
Grab your phone and check your Facebook. This is going to take a few minutes and you might get bored. Sometimes I read a book during these short bursts of waiting when it's not enough time to complete some other task. 

Step 5
Pretty soon you'll have whipped cream. It's at this point that I realized I have never made whipped cream from scratch either and I'm definitely going to make some for strawberry shortcake this spring once we harvest enough strawberries for a batch.  If you bought the huge bottle of heavy whipping cream you can use the other half to make some whipped cream next.  Just start from the beginning and stop at Step 5.  But we're making butter here.  So keep whipping.

Step 6
Post something nice to someone on Facebook. You might just make their day.  If you are in a Vintage Fellowship Small Group right now it's part of your homework anyway. While you are doing that you will start to hear a slappy/splashy sound. That is the butter separating form the butter milk! It will look like this.
See the buttermilk left over?
Step 7
Pull the butter off the whisk and rinse it thoroughly, making sure to squeeze out all of the excess milk.  You can do this in a bowl squishing it with a wood spoon or just your hands under cold running water like I did.  This is actually an important step if you don't plan to just eat that awesomeness right off the beater (you'll be tempted).  The butter milk will make your butter go rancid more quickly if you don't get it rinsed out.
So beautiful.  Daniel might tell you I married him so I could get this gorgeous piece of machinery.  It gives me a happy.

Step 8
Taste your butter and try not to drop dead because it's the BEST FREAKING BUTTER YOU HAVE EVER TASTED. Vow to always make your own butter from now on. You can use it right away (I'm guessing if you baked your own bread right before you made the butter and then covered a slice of that bread in your butter the world might crack open from the awesomeness and the Mayans will have been right all along) or you can pop it in an airtight container in the fridge to harden up for later. You can also flavor it with honey or chopped up fruit or garlic or just whatever tickles your fancy.

Strain the butter milk into a mason jar because it's cuter than a glass and you can seal it up.  I tasted it and it's pretty yummy, not like the butter milk you buy at the store, which is cultured and tastes sour.  You can't use this as an exact substitute for that but you CAN drink it or use it in your coffee or make ice cream with it.
This is definitely getting turned into homemade ice cream.

Daniel was sufficiently impressed with my pioneer woman skills when he got home from Guy's Night and then I mowed the lawn on Sunday and counted it as a workout.  Lesson of the day?

Procrastination Always Pays Off

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Chapter 20: How Does Your Garden Grow?

No silver bells or pretty maids but there are lots of hot peppers! It's May Day and everything I had planned to put in the garden is already there. That's definitely a first. Two years ago I was scurrying to get as much planted as I could the first weekend in May before Daniel and I left for Memphis to go to Memphis in May. Last year was 3 weeks pre-wedding so that's pretty much a blur and I really don't remember what I had planted but it wasn't anywhere near being finished since it never did get finished all summer.

I tried to prepare as much as possible in advance this year. I spent evenings at Tanglewood with my map of the gardens and many cold afternoons on my couch with my seed catalogs and some new gardening books.

This year we did a major over-haul l even bigger than we did the year's before. We didn't double the square footage like we did every other year. In fact it's a bit smaller. But we did move the beds in the back yard to the side of the house so that they will all be together and we're planning to add a nice little picket fence around it all to keep out the critters and the hooligans. We have already had a problem with someone helping themselves to our pile of dried bamboo that I plan on making trellises with. What is WITH people?

Despite the rocky start to the trellises I have high hopes for the garden this year! We are having some additional guttering and a downspout added to the middle of the side of the house so we can have an extra rain barrel and I've added some drip irrigation lines. Hopefully it will help us combat any crazy hot, dry weather we might have like last year.

This is what we have planted this year:

Bed #1 (4'x10')
--Lots of Lettuce
--Some Cabbage from the neighbor
--4 Cucumbers (2 pickling 2 slicing)
--2 Zucchini
--1 Yellow Squash
--2 Giant Jalapeño
--2 Regular Jalapeño
--Random peppers from our friend Matthew that I lost the label for and don't remember what it is. So let's call it pepper surprise
--Lots of Dill

Bed #2 (2'x10')
--2 Rows of Strawberries (We've already harvested a few!

Bed #3 (Maybe 3.5'x20 who the heck knows. It's cinder blocks. It's slightly ghetto. But there are marigolds planted in the wholes in the cinder blocks for a nice border. Anyway...)
--1 Pumpkin
--2 Watermelons
--5 Tomatoes (for canning, not slicing)
--2 Soy Beans (for edamame)
--Huge Oregano
--Lots of Basil
--Green Onions
--Yellow Onions

--2 Blackberry Bushes
--2 Blueberry Bushes
--1 Raspberry Bush (the 2nd died)
--Big Lemongrass Bunch

I'm probably missing some things but I think it will be a pretty good variety and I'm looking forward to doing lots of harvesting and canning and EATING this summer!