Sunday, April 29, 2012

on the homefront

The last 2 holdouts in the herb department finally sprouted over the weekend.  They were planted later than the others, but now the parsley and spearmint are growing alongside the others.  

Several of the herbs are growing tall!  Finn noticed the chives this morning and remarked, "that grass is getting so high!"

In the raised beds, the cucumbers just poked their heads out of their seeds.  Finn wants to know when they will be ready to eat!

The beets sprouted all over the place.  I've never grown beets, or any other root veggies, for that matter, so this should be a new adventure.  I'm not exactly sure how to tell when they are ready to pick.  I guess that comes with experience.

The zucchini are trying hard to poke their heads up as well.

The poor tomato plants that I just set out last weekend.  They were covered during the frost two nights later but still browned a little around the edges.  I'm hoping they'll bounce back and green up soon.

In other domestic news,  A friend came over this weekend and helped me make a lined curtain for our downstairs half-bath.  This room is fairly dark, with only the one window and not much light from the other side of the house so it's hard to photograph.  I really like how this little curtain turned out though.

You can see the print of the light part of the curtain here.  I chose a light fabric to hopefully allow some sunlight into this room.

And here's a slightly better view of the contrasting fabric.

I bought another flat of strawberries at the farmer's market this weekend and decided to make some jam.  It was my first experience using the Pomona pectin. I was a little doubtful of the two-step process, but it might be my new favorite jam-making method. Less sugar, preservative-free, and reliable results, yippee! 

 I also decided to use a few cups of my strawberries to make a strawberry lemonade concentrate.  Finn drank the little bit, diluted with water, that was leftover from canning and declared it "delicious!"  Now he thinks we should open the jars and drink strawberry lemonade all day.

The same friend who helped me with the curtains brought over a shelf that she wanted to get rid of, so now I have a canning shelf in the kitchen.  It's already being put to good use, as you can see.  The canning shelf in my pantry was full and spilling over.  This canning shelf is a welcome addition to help us contain our burgeoning collection of jars. (And it looks much happier with strawberry jam and strawberry lemonade gracing it's shelves!)

After reading about Tattler reusable canning lids on Food in Jars, I decided to take the plunge and try a few.  So far so good, I used a few for the strawberry jam and strawberry lemonade jars. This cute little basket on the top of the canning shelf is holding the Tattler lids and some small glass jars for freezing pesto later in the summer.

That's a recap of what's going on here on the homefront.  I'm feeling very domesticated this weekend. :)  How about your neck of the woods?

Friday, April 27, 2012

{this moment} - balloon car

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. See Soulemama to play along.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

a new dish

There's a little love affair going on at my house these days. (Move over, Paul! ;) I've got a crush on a new dish.  A Garden Medley Pyrex dish, to be exact.  I've actually had a love affair with quite a few Pyrex dishes over the last few years, mostly enabled by Paul who indulges me often on birthdays and Christmases with a new bowl or two.

But when I saw this dish, complete with cozy, I was smitten.  Did you know that once upon a time they made promotional Pyrex with a matching cozy?!  I did not, but I am crazy in love with this one.  Apparently it was a promotional item made by Pyrex for one season in only this particular bowl, and I've seen very few floating around the internet so I'm thrilled to have snagged one.

All I need now is a red checkered tablecloth for the backyard picnic table and seersucker for the children, and we'll be in business!

An inaugural salad welcoming the titillating new dish to the house and Lentil Tomato Salad was born. (Better known as, I already had all the ingredients in the house.)  Spring onions and greenhouse tomatoes are popping up at the farmer's market and are a welcome sight to the winter-weary.

Snowflake dish, meet Garden Medley dish.  I hope you will be best of friends on our picnic table, potluck table, and every other occasion that you might meet.

Lentil Tomato Salad

1 medium tomato, diced
1 cup cooked lentils
2 stalks celery, diced
1 small red pepper, diced

1 small cucumber, diced
2 spring onions, sliced thinly
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
several grinds of pepper

Toss in bowl (preferably a pretty one!) and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

And a bonus salad (because I'm thoughtful like that)!

Quinoa Avocado Salad

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
1 cup water
1 cup corn (fresh or frozen)
1 medium avocado, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 small tomato, diced
1/4 - 1/3 cup lemon juice (we like it very lemon-y!)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt

Cook quinoa in water with corn until quinoa is done.  Cool, then toss with remaining ingredients.  This salad is even more amazing with fresh chopped cilantro. (And summer, with all it's accompanying herbs, is on it's way!)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Yarn Along

My Yarn Along isn't overly exciting this week.  I'm reading the same book, and thoroughly enjoying it, by the way, and mostly knitting the same old stuff.  I did start Elizabeth's stocking hat this week.  (The kids each get a hand-knit hat in their stockings each year, and I usually start them super early so if they happen to see me working on it, they forget by Christmas.)  I'm making a Habitat hat for her using a Malabrigo Worsted in Bobby Blue that I've had earmarked for her for a while.

I'm almost finished with the scarf I've been working on.  One more night of knitting, and I hope to be finished with this one. (also a Christmas present...shhhh!)

Joining Ginny in the knitting and reading fun...

Monday, April 23, 2012

a vegetarian crock pot

Acquiring a crock pot has been on my mind for several months now.  I hesitated to bite the bullet as all of the crock pot meals of my youth were meat-based and I wasn't sure what kind of use my crock pot might see in a vegetarian household.  Fortunately crock pot cooking has come a long way from pot roasts, and when a friend who was relocating offered hers for free, I decided to dive in.

I spent a few nights perusing vegetarian crock pot recipes online, then did what I typically do: find a recipe I mostly liked and adapted it to suit me.  This Indian Curry dish was our inaugural crock pot feast, although I subbed the chicken for whatever veggies I had on hand, green beans, peas, carrots, onions, and corn.  This was a winner and will definitely become part of our recipe repertoire.

I also tried to find a Chili Pie recipe, although I basically used our standard veggie chili topped with the cornbread batter.  I used some chili tickler cheddar in the cornbread, and it was deliciously spicy.  Paul and I loved it, and Finn really enjoyed it, despite the "hot" he kept mentioning.

I was a bit nervous about the cornbread topping setting in the middle, but it came through just before serving.

Tonight's broccoli and cheddar over brown rice turned out pretty well too.  I used the amount of water that I normally use for rice, and it was clearly too much so it was a bit soupy.  Maybe the broccoli contributed to the extra water?

Everyone enjoyed it though so I'll definitely try again with a little bit longer time and little bit less water.  I didn't have a recipe for this one either, just threw some brown rice, sauteed onion, minced garlic, salt and a little bit of veggie broth into some water then layered broccoli and cheddar on top.

We've only had one true flop in the crock pot thus far.  I tried a spinach lasagne last week that was a bust. Mushy noodles and crispy cheese, although the boys like that; it definitely needed less time in the crock pot.  I'll try again at some point though and see if I can find a lasagne that works.

Do you have any good vegetarian (or easily adaptable) crock pot favorites? I'd love to find some good recipes to continue my exploration!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Saturday gardening

Many things are underway in the garden over the last week.  The tomatoes and peppers that I bought at the farmer's market last weekend were put into the beds.  I went ahead and planted them at the end of last weekend, despite several days with no rain, then watered them twice a day with the rain barrel water until we finally had rain mid-week.

The blackberries have started blooming in the last week or so.  They appear to be running about 2 weeks ahead of schedule so we'll probably have blackberries by the 2nd week of June.  That's exciting!  I've also spotted them growing in other local areas that I can pick so I hope to put away quite a few blackberries and several pints of blackberry jam this summer.

A few of the herbs are now identifiable, including the cilantro.  I can almost taste them!

The lettuce just poked it's head out of the side of the bed where I randomly tossed some seeds one day after finding a packet of lettuce seeds in the junk drawer.

The awaited rain has everything looking so green and lush!

A few more tomato plants joined the crew yesterday, and an out-of-town friend helped me plant some peas as well.  Only a couple more things left to plant and then we just tend and wait for our summer crops.  The next few weeks will be slow, although we plan to visit a local strawberry farm to pick.  We'll find plenty to keep us busy with the strawberries, I'm sure.

What's going on in your garden right now?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

a crafting playdate

So much of our time is spent planning play dates for our children or dinner dates for our family that when a friend, an out-of-town friend, no less, calls and mentions a crafting play date *for the mamas* I had to catch my breath with excitement. Cindy, of Zach Aboard, breezed into town this weekend and, like the Mary Poppins of crafting, pulled all kinds of goodies from her bag.

She brought a set of letter stamps that we found, um, challenging to master, to say the least. Stamping spoons to make garden markers looks easy on Pinterest but in my experience is better left to the Etsy crowd.

As you can see from our trial and errors (lots and lots of errors), that particular craft takes more skill (or brawn) than I possess.

Elizabeth got a nice little circle pendant, made from a $.10 washer though. A small victory!

Next, Cindy whipped out a fancy little tool for carving rubber stamps, a project I've admired many times but never been quite bold enough to attempt on my own.

After a couple simple sketches were decided upon, I dove right in and hoped for better success in the stamp carving department than I found in letter stamping!

A few minutes into the carving, I hit my groove and managed to carve 2 relatively smooth stamps.

A lighthouse, with negative space light beam. I love that!

And a cheery little sun. Now to make some homemade wrapping paper or postcards!

Thanks so much, Cindy, for coming to visit and sharing your toys! I think we should make this an annual event (at least!)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

from market to garden

I'm finding my way back to my weekly farmer's market rhythm. What a relaxing excursion to walk through the market bursting with new plant life. From the flowers, shrubs, and trees to the herbs and veggies, the best a NC April has to offer was presented in all of it's shiny green glory.

Strawberries were in abundance, a full 2 weeks ahead of schedule with this warm winter and spring. Even though we plan to find a you-pick farm in the next week, I bought a gallon of the sweet juicy berries to tide us over until our picking day.

My favorite plant, veggie, and egg vendor and purveyor of organic and heirloom varieties, had plenty of beautiful plantlings to choose from, including some larger plants already bearing.

My goal this week was to buy tomato and pepper plants for my garden and the organic heirloom farmer did not disappoint. I bought some Brandywine, Cherokee purple, and Red Cherry tomatoes along with Jalapeno and Big Bertha Sweet Bell peppers. (oh yeah! I like the sound of Big Bertha!)

I intended to get some planting done today, which didn't happen, but definitely I'll get those plantlings, and some of the many seeds I bought, in the ground over the next few days. I can't wait for things to really start moving in the garden.

Another garden development I'm happy about it the ability to water using our rain barrel (finally!) After solving problems of clogging and the spigot lying to close to the ground, I now have a functional water barrel, which has yielded at least a dozen gallons of water or more over the last few days of no rain and new little herb seedlings that need a drink!

Even though I didn't actually get much done today, I'm content with how things are going out in our little garden patch. It's not much, but it's more every year. I'm learning more about gardening, what works and more importantly, what doesn't, each year as well, and I can't complain about that!