Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Harvesting: Asian Pear Apples

I must have been REALLY out of it last September (yes, I had a, it's not really a good excuse!) I never knew my backdoor neighbors had a pear apple tree! It's in need of a pruning though, so couldn't HELP but notice the branches draped across the fence, dripping in tiny yellow fruits. I screwed up my courage and picked a tiny fruit, resolutely thinking "Hey, it's on my side of the fence...they couldn't even reach it if they wanted to!" Oh me. Oh my. Crispy, juicy, fresh...I gathered my entire family for a walk. Armed with a bag of my mom's apples and my best smile we knocked on the door, thrust the apples in the face of their bemused college-age son and said "Hi! I'm Myrnie...your backdoor neighbor. Ummm...your fruit tree is loaded, did you know? Do you want to come around to our house and pick your fruit, or...??" Oh no, was the reply. Feel free- we always just let the fruit drop and throw it away.

My head was saying " what?!" My mouth was polite though "Oh, OK. THANKS!" (To show you just HOW nice this family is, we found a big bag of pears on our steps when we got home from dinner that night, picked from their side of the fence.)

We had a great time picking this afternoon, and now...what do I do with all these pear apples? I sent a bag home with my parents, and I'm wondering: should I can these? I have a great recipe for pear-pineapple jam. Or...should I make nice with all the ladies at church tomorrow and take them all to church with a sign and a pile of bags "Pear apples- take some!"

Does anyone know how to say that in Spanish?

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Harvest Festival

This past weekend marked the 11th annual Local Harvest Festival- local farms threw open their gates (and fields) to the teeming, curious masses. Figures for last year showed about 8,000 people participated in the tour- WOW!

We went and visiting "our" farm- we've participated in their CSA program since early Spring, and were excited to go and see where our food came from.

A greenhouse was set up especially for kids- there was a coloring station, lunch totes to stamp and take home, and a fabulous balloon man. He was a genius with those little tubes of latex- the girls were so happy with their flower and bunch of grapes!

Mimi and I left Ernie and Wonder Daddy in the green house (and, sadly, left the camera with them too!) Mimi had a blast toddling up and down (lots of down- it was bumpy dirt!) the field path- we saw lots of herbs, broccoli, mustard greens, carrots, young lettuce, collards, etc.

Here's a picture I snapped on the way home, from the car- it's an amazing area. There's a river close by, and that's probably what makes this stretch of land so fertile (being on the flood plain and all.)

We stopped for lunch on the way home- who could resist an establishment with a sign like this??

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Harvesting: Potatoes!

For the second time, we grew potatoes in a garbage can. MUCH better harvest this time!

I used organic spuds from the local feed store (the first time, 2 years ago, I grabbed a box of spuds from the hardware store- not the nicest specimens, to be sure.)

(Yes, those are our weekly beans. Ugh, what do I do with TWO beans every week?!)

Here's my largest spud. Isn't it beautiful?

The largest...and smallest. It's smaller than my thumbnail!

A mouse?

This time around I drilled MORE holes in the can, elevated it from the ground with a few blocks of wood, and used all dirt and no straw. There were no potatoes in the bottom 8 inches, and no potatoes in the top 12 inches, but everywhere in between. Getting them out was backbreaking work, scooping all the dirt into another garbage can and sifting it with my hands to make sure I got all the spuds. I could have turned the whole thing onto a tarp and made it easier, though. I waited to harvest until the vines were completely dead- dry, brown, and hanging limply over the sides of the garbage can. Since some of the spuds had started to sprout, perhaps I could have harvested a little sooner but we've been out of town. They're all in the garage now, drying out a bit so they can be stored.
I'll definitely be growing these again- this crop came from 4 seed spuds (which I didn't cut, just planted whole.) I picked up some more garbage cans on Freecycle, and look forward to trying a few more varieties next year. I'll probably mix a little sand in, too- I've been told they like fast draining soil. This year they were just planted in cheap bags of top soil from the hardware store-the dirt in my yard has too much clay to use for this. They were super easy to grow- water occasionally, and add more dirt a time or two. That's it!

Now...what do I do with our gorgeous spuds?

Mystery: Mushroom

Another in our "mystery series."

I noticed these fungi in line formations near our shed, on the shady side, yesterday. Small spiny knobs that open to cream-topped caps, which then seem to melt back into themselves (perhaps when spores are released?) They're also on the ground over mysterious tunnels- we're not sure what creature makes these tunnels, but there are golf-ball sized holes all over the yard (lawn, beds, garden, etc.) No plants are being harmed- they didn't even touch the turnips in the garden box, although that may be just a matter of preference!

Any idea what these guys are?

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Mystery Flower, Still

Remember this flower from last summer?

It died at the first hard frost. Sadly, hopefully I watched its dead and brown stump in the Spring, waiting for signs of life.


But wait? Do those seedling leaves look familiar? And those? And those? And...wait. They're EVERYWHERE!

Apparently our purple friend is an ambitious self-seeder.

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I'm still not really sure what this is, but for now I'm going with Zebra mallow, a rampant self-seeder that is apparently edible! (Anyone willing to test this theory? Anyone?)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

You ever have one of those days...

Playing goofy golf at our family reunion

I should be going to bed. I should be posting about my fabulous thrifting finds. I should be (finally!) posting the wheat bread tutorial I took so many pictures for...

but I'm posting about my kids.

Mimi is a dream right now. Life is good, life is exciting. Putting small items in buckets is pretty much her favorite thing to do. We spent an hour on a picnic blanket this afternoon- I was flopped on my stomach, reading a book, while Mimi crawled over me, under me, sat on my head, and generally had a blast. When she got bored with the Mommy Jungle Gym, we wrestled. The air was warm and a teeny bit muggy, the sunlight was slanted and orange, the sky was bright blue, and I thought "THIS is perfect." Displeased. She's 4, and why shouldn't she make just as many choices as Mommy?

"Time to get ready for bed, Ernie!"
"But I decided to watch a movie!"

"Come inside Ernie!"
"But I decided to shut the garage door!" (after I've already done it. This has, in the past, created 20 minute throw-down tantrums.)

"Here's ice cream, Ernie!"
"I want sprinkles on it. And I want chocolate milk. And a straw."

"We're having pizza for dinner."
"I want chips. I want more milk. Mommy? What are we having for dessert?"
"There's no dessert tonight. If you're hungry, you can eat your dinner."

Is it normal for Mommy to have the urge to throw Ernie, and her un-touched dinner, through the nearest window?

She has such big plans, and tells me in no uncertain terms when I don't measure up.

I love all my children. I adore all my children. But golly gee whitakers... those preschoolers are a tough crowd!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Grandma's Cobbler

I have a small arsenal of fall-back recipes. The ones I cook week after month after year, and we still haven't tired of them. Wheat bread, french bread, prawn coconut curry, chili, pinto beans...

This is one of those recipes, and you want to make it.

A quick and simple batter topped with juicy fruit, it takes only as long as it takes to cut and peel the fruit, and it bakes up into something magnificent. Soft and dense when warm, chewy and firm when want this. Tonight.

So quick- find some fruit, fresh or canned, and make a batch today!

Grandma's Miracle Cobbler

Turn the oven on to 350 degrees. Plop a few tablespoons of butter in a 9x13 inch casserole pan and put it in the oven to melt the butter. Meanwhile, mix 2 cups flour, 2 cups sugar, 2 cups milk, 2 teaspoons baking powder, a teaspoon of vanilla, and about a 1/4 teaspoon salt. Whisk together. When the butter is melted, pull the pan out of the oven, swirl a bit to spread the butter, and pour the batter in. Sprinkle with about 8 cups of chopped fruit- fresh, frozen, or canned are all fine. Peaches, blueberries, nectarines, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries are all family favorites. Anything soft and juicy. If you like, sprinkle a bit of cinnamon over the top too. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour.

This is best after it's cooled for a while, and is amazing with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. And the best part- it's kind of like a fruit pancake, and therefore makes a completely acceptable breakfast. Score!
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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tu-Tu Cute

I made up some new matching tutus for Ernie and her cousin BBJ.

Mimi enjoyed modeling this one so much, I think I need to start cutting more tulle!

As a side note... you may have noticed that my Etsy shop has been languishing for a very long time. I love to make things. I love to make people happy. I do NOT like to market. If I decide to do another Christmas show this year, I will definitely be putting more things in the shop. However, if you ever see a project on here that you would love to purchase for your very own, just let me know. I'd be happy to help you out with that, especially with the holiday season coming up!
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Monday, September 14, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mimi!

I can't believe you've been with us for a year, Little Mimi! We loved the baby, adore the toddler, and can't wait to see what this year holds for you.

Mom, Dad, and Ernie
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Spiffing Up Worn-Out Glitter Shoes

I remember my little sister (who will start college at the end of this month!) wearing glitter shoes to church. And I remember the glitter left on the pews and in the hallways from her, and other little girls. My daughter has now joined the ranks of glitter-trailing girls. Wonder Daddy tried to save these shoes by setting the rule that they had to stay on the floor if she wanted to sit cross-legged at church, to try and prevent all the glitter from being scraped off...but it was all in vain.

The toes were bare and devoid of glitter.

Ernie was sad: Dilapidated and glitter-less shoes are NOT fit to be worn to church!

Luckily, Momma has overcome her fear of Mod-Podge, and the shoes are now rehabilitated and ready to be worn (and worn out) all over again!

It's a really easy fix- using a foam brush, I wiped a thin layer of Mod-Podge in a symmetrical shape on the front of each shoe and (holding the shoes over a piece of newspaper) shook glitter on. Tap the excess glitter off, decant it back into the jar, and let dry. Top with another coat or two of Mod-Podge (let it dry well in between coats.) You're back in business!

I wasn't able to find any pink glitter (and besides- the chances are slim of finding a PERFECT match for these shoes) so I went with a cheery gold glitter. I think they look kind of like wing-tips. Sparkly, Wicked-esque, wing-tips.

(Speaking of Wicked- saw it the other afternoon with Wonder Daddy. Great show! I'm still humming the songs.)
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Friday, September 11, 2009

The Doll Family

I finished up this family of dolls just in time for our family reunion- say hello so Siu Jeun, Bubba Jyu, Lo Gong, and Aunt LoLo! (Oh, and Mimi's little piggy toes- Mama was multi-tasking during her lunch time :)

The dolls are painted with acryclic paints, and sealed with a matte-finish varnish. I love how it deepened the colors just a smidge.
I'm so excited for the birthday girl to meet her new dolls!
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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Garden Update

Just a few pictures of what's been coming through the kitchen recently- our yard isn't terribly productive right now, but it IS nice to have some homegrown produce, and get more gardening experience under my belt.

Turnips from the raise garden bed

Blackberries from the brambles that grow around the perimeter of the backyard (this is nothing extraordinary- it's hard to find any empty land NOT encroached upon by this vicious vine!)

Italian prunes from an enormous tree in the backyard (we're picking them under-ripe this year: last year I had to watch as racoons and squirrels hung by their toes in my tree, eating every last plum)
"Chinese green bean"- I will definitely not be growing these again! They taste fine, but from at least a dozen plants, I've harvested 6 beans. Yes, they're 12-18 inches long, but 2 beans a week is NOT worth the space :)

Those round me! They came from the bean plants. We composted them.

More italian prunes

Apples from Mom's yard

Seeds harvested from my mysterious purple flower

(Oh, the limes are from an enormous bag my dad picked up. The juice is in the freezer now.)

How is your garden doing? I'm hoping to do a Fall garden this year, but August has slipped away from me. I hope if I can plant the seeds soon, we'll have enough sunshine to bring in a little harvest in a few months.
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Monday, September 7, 2009

Another Use for Apple Cider Vinegar

I'm must really like you guys- I can't believe I'm posting these pictures! *grin*

So...this picture was taken at the end of May. Do you see that thing on my forehead? I was mighty concerned about it.

**edit: Yes. It's a wart.**

Here's a photo taken last weekend.

And another from Tuesday.
If you look really carefully, it's still there (but you know, in my experience they can stay "in remission" so to speak for YEARS so I'm not concerned.)

Want to know my ultra-fancy, super-expensive secret? Apple cider vinegar. Swab it on with a q-tip and cover it with a bandaid if you want it to go away faster. Mine took three days. (Wonder Daddy and I had a race- he used a $10 package of wart-off stickers from the drug store. I won by a land slide!)

So now you know. And I'm going to go burn these pictures :)

What do you use apple cider vinegar for? (It also makes great coleslaw...and works miracles on athlete's foot. And yes, we have MORE THAN ONE BOTTLE. Eww... :)
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Friday, September 4, 2009

Screen Time

To my dismay, it seems the things we have so carefully tried to limit for our oldest daughter...have become her obsession. We limit candy, and it fills her every waking thought if she finds it in the house. We try to limit screen time (movies, computer games, etc.) and she spends ALL DAY asking for more! (If you're silently judging me because my daughter watches movies, can spend an hour scrolling through our family pictures, and plays Starfall, Friend, and our spanish language program...that's fine. Just please don't tell me!)

We came up with a system the other day that hopefully will work well for her- I made a "token box" on the side of the refrigerator and moved three magnets inside. Each magnet is worth 30 minutes of screen time- she can move them out and I start the timer. So far this has really cut down on whining and tantrums! Of course, this afternoon she went and moved all her tokens back in, to try and get more screen time... but I'm hoping this will help her see concretely how much time she has available, and help her to choose what to do (play a game, watch a long movie, watch 3 short movies, etc.) It also helps that I can say "No, you're out of tokens for today, but tomorrow we'll fill the box again!"

I hope to make some marble magnets just for this box, but haven't come up with a design yet, but it's nice to have something she can physically touch and feel that she can control.

What do you do about screen time in your house?
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