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!