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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Shhh...I'm working

I may not have a chance to post again this week.  I'm studying for a quiz on Friday for my Anthropology class (remember I hate myself and am taking a college class for fun?).  I got a 100% on my last quiz and a 98% on my exam.  And the exam was mostly essay which means only 2% of people in the class are better at bullshitting than me!  I need to meet these people and shake their hand.

Also, I'm working on a few side projects that I'm excited to announce in the next few days (weeks?), and that has been a huge time suck in a good way.

For anyone who was effected by Sandy or has family in that bitches path, I am sending you thoughts and prayers for a quick clean up.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Breathmints. Or, suck it Starbucks, Altoids, etc.

It all started in high obsession with breathmints and chapstick. I'm not sure what the root cause, was, but I was hooked.  At the time it was Carmex and Starbucks mints.

Starbucks and I had a good relationship for a long time, but in 2009 they phased out my beloved mints and replaced them with a tin of mints that cost the same, but had 1/10th as many mints.  Well played Starbucks, well played.

I floundered for awhile looking for a good replacement.  Some time in 2011, I found Altoids minis "Simply Mint".  They were super hard to find, and I could only buy them at Albertsons.  Sadly, last month, Albertsons discontinued selling them.


I did some searching online, and came across this recipe.  Tried it out, and not only is it easy, but it's cheap and the perfect replacement for my Altoids.  I used to spend about $1-2 a week on Altoids,  This recipe made A TON of mints for $5.44.  Shall we get started?

1 little bottle of flavoring of your choice.  I think this size is called a dram.  It was $1.69.
2 cups of dry gum paste (found it at Joann's in the cake section.  Used a 50% off coupon and got it for $3.45.
3 tblsp water (recipe calls for 2, but I needed 3)

1) Mix the gum paste with the flavoring, and water until it forms a very thick paste.
Yes, I do have dirty gardener hands.  So?

2) Put parchment paper on a baking sheet, and dust with powdered sugar.

3) Put the "dough" on the parchment, and dust with a bit more powdered sugar.  I pressed it as thin as I could with the heel of my hand.

4) Now at this point, you could make little balls, or use a tiny mold to make these cute shapes.  If you have time for that, please come to my house and clean it.  I just dusted a pizza cutter with powdered sugar, and cut them in to strips and pieces.

5) I filled a lidded container with the pieces, and sprinkled a bit more powdered sugar in there.  I shook it a few times to make sure that all the pieces were coated enough to not stick to each other.

6) Spread the pieces back on the baking sheet with the parchment, and let dry at room temperature for at least 3 days.  Your house will smell awesome, but please watch out for kiddos and pets.

7) After they were "done", I put them in another container with a washcloth and shook for a minute or so to try to get as much excess powdered sugar off of them.  I filled up my old Altoid tins, and put all the extra in a tupperware container.

Are you thinking what I'm thinking?  Yep, I'm currently looking for chocolate flavoring to make chocolate mint ones for the holiday gifts!  YUM!
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Monday, October 29, 2012

Mostly Homemade Mondays, week 19

Exciting announcement!  If we can get the technicalities worked out, I'll be introducing a co-host for Mostly Homemade Mondays starting next week!  And we'll be switching linky tools so you'll be able to also upload a photo of your post.

It's Monday - that time of the week for Mostly Homemade Mondays - the link party for people who like cooking healthy food, but sometimes have to rely on the occasional store-bought item. And for crafty people. And gardeners.

Got something cool you posted recently on your blog? Link up so that the rest of us can see the awesomesauce!

The "rules":

1) Please link back to this post so that people reading your blog know they can find more fantastic posts here!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Meal plan for October 29th - November 4th, and a week in review

The other day I was thinking to myself "Sarah (we're on a first name basis), this election cycle doesn't seem like it's so bad".  I've heard on NPR about how much money has been spend on ads, and how people are so sick of the vitriol and name calling.  I hadn't seen that.  I knew it exists, but I wasn't seeing it.

:light bulb moment:

I don't have cable this election cycle!!!

:does the Dance of Joy from Perfect Strangers (shut up, you ALL know what I'm talking about):

Please go ahead and add "no political ads" to the already huge list of "why not having cable rocks my world".  As you might remember, we watch our shows on Amazon (free with Amazon Prime), the network's own website, or Hulu.  We have Hulu Prime which is $8 a month.

Recently, Hulu started a promotion where if you try it out, you get two weeks free.  If anyone is interested in trying to cut the cable cord, now would be the time to try it out as we ramp up to election day!  Shoot me an email (click contact me at the top of the blog) for a referral.  For full disclosure, apparently I also get 2 weeks free, but that's not why I'm trying to whore out this service.  It's amazing how your life changes for the better without cable.  I'm more productive, I read more, and life is less centered on sitting on my ass.  I want that for you guys too!

Last week at church, we had a guest pastor doing the sermon.  In our church, prior to the "main" sermon, there is a children's sermon where all the kids come up and receive a 3-5 minute message that is a child-sized version/preview of the main sermon.

The kid's sermon of the day was about fears.  The guest pastor asked the kids what their fears were.  Little hands went up, and answers of "sharks", "the dark", "bees", and "big dogs" were heard.

I'll give you ONE guess which little hand shot up and yelled out "zombies".
Yep, that kid.  For the life of me, I have no idea where he gets ideas like that.

Oh.  Right.  From that guy.

Let's see...what else?  Oh yeah, in last week's meal plan post, I mentioned I was making a new recipe and would share it with you if it was good.

Guess what?

It was freaking delicious!  And easy, and so speedy to throw together.  Ginger and Cilantro Baked Tilapia.  Troy and I agreed that the sauce would be delicious on chicken, or poured over shredded beef on tacos.  Or any other kind of fish that you have on hand.  I made the sauce the night before and just stored it in the fridge.  This made it a wonderfully quick week night meal.  As in, 15 minutes tops.

While grocery shopping yesterday, I discovered this amazing find at Fred Meyer (PNW grocery store).  Dude, so good!  Brew it as a normal tea, but then add a splash of milk, and you can convince yourself that you just spent $3.50 on a chai tea latte at a coffee shop.  If you have a Fred Meyer near you, I found it in the hippie section on an end cap.  And it was only $4.50, so much cheaper than the online price.

My love of my dutch oven is well documented.  I use "Dutchie" (7 quart) at least 3 times a week, and would be lost without that lovely lady.  You can imagine my excitement when I received this (3 quart) from my in-laws for my birthday earlier in the month.
I've named her Little Sprout, and she is a wonderful addition to the family.

Troy and Jack spent about four hours yesterday building this and then hanging out in it.  It took over my entire living room.
I have another guest post up on US Kids, Parents and Teachers.  I'm sharing our absolute favorite snack in this house - Apple Jacks.  I designed it for Jack when he was a baby; his food allergies prevented him from having the store bought finger foods that were available.

Ok, enough blither blabble, here is what we're going to have for dinner this week!

Monday:: I'm working late, so the boys are on their own.

Tuesday:: Hot dogs (organic, nitrate-free, all that jazz), salad from the garden, sweet potato fries, and fruit.

Wednesday:: Quesadillas, salad, home canned tomato soup, and fruit.  A good foundation for the candy orgy that will be take place later that night.  Actually, I'm speaking of myself.  Jack doesn't really love candy, and doesn't notice that all of the candy disappears the day after Halloween.

Thursday:: Chicken noodle soup in the crockpot, rolls, or biscuits, or something I feel like making, and fruit.

Friday:: Popcorn dinner!  Popcorn, fruit, veggies, cheese slices, etc.

Saturday:: Baked chicken Kiev (new recipe), salad from the garden, another veg if something is ready in the garden, and fruit.

Sunday:: Dinner at my parent's.

This week I spent $7.50 for a half gallon of raw milk and a dozen eggs at a local farm, $33.74  at the grocery store, $17 at our local butcher (mostly for the freezer), and Jack and I will hit up Costco this afternoon.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Billy Corgan had it correct - pumpkins need some smashing. to can pumpkin

Let me start by saying that next year, I am only planting two pumpkin plants.  Three produced way too many pumpkins which forced me to spend 6 hours one night canning them until the wee hours of the morning.  By hour 4, I was cursing these gourds of evil.  I still have 4 left - FOUR - but I'm saving 3 for carving (cause I don't want to can any more), and the other will I'll probably go nuts on with a baseball bat, a'la Office Space.

After that rousing endorsement for canning pumpkin, I'm sure you're busting out your pressure canner to make some for yourself, right?  Also, I assume you enjoy being kicked in the face, and yearly pap exams?

Sorry water bath canners, according to the sources that be, pumpkin can only be canned in a pressure canner.  This is the one I have, and I highly recommend it.  Also, pumpkin must be canned in chunks, and not puree.  If you strongly desire having pumpkin puree handy, you can make some and then freeze it.

Canning Pumpkin
Pumpkins (DUH), I planted Small Sugar this year; the taste is delicious.

1) Cut your pumpkin in half, slightly on one side of the stem.

Total rookie mistake cutting the stem out of this one.  On subsequent pumpkins, I just hacked them in half.

2) Grab as many seeds as you can to save for later.  You're going to want to try my ranch pumpkin seeds!  Then, use an ice cream scoop to get a good portion of the "goo" out.  Don't worry about getting it all...we'll get to that later!

3) Lay one half of the pumpkin, gooey side down, and slice it like you're slicing a melon.  Cutting it this way with the goo side facing you prevents the pumpkin from sliding around, and keeps your fingers in-tact.

4) Take one of the slices, and cut in to 1 inch chunks.

5) Take your knife, and cut the rind off of the chunk, and then the icky side as well.  Put the pumpkin in a bowl of water with a little lemon juice or citric acid.

6) Now, we're gonna cook the chunks.  Boil some water and add the pumpkin in batches for 2 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the pumpkin and put in to a hot and sterilized canning jar (remember, you can put the clean jars in a lasagna pan half filled with water in a 300 degree oven to keep them hot AND save space on your stove).

7) Pour boiling water over the pumpkin chunks (now THAT is a great name for a band).

8) Wipe the rims with a clean rag, and put a clean and sterilized lid on top (remember, I put mine in the crockpot to keep hot and save space on my stove), and secure a ring.

9) You can follow the directions for pressure canning here.  Pumpkin needs to be pressure canned at 11 pounds of pressure for 55 minutes (pints) and 90 minutes (quarts).

10) Remove from the canner after you've processed, and the pressure has dropped (it took almost 1 hour for the pressure to drop for me), and place on a towel in a corner of the kitchen where they can be undisturbed for a good 12 hours.

11) After they have completely cooled, check the seals, label, and store.

To use, simply open the jar (remind me some day to tell you a funny story about homecanned items I sent a friend who didn't know how to open them), and blend the chunks.  I used my immersion blender and blended until smooth.  One pint of "chunks" equaled 1 cup of puree.

To test out my puree, Jack and I made pumpkin chocolate chip muffins.

After they cooled, we took a bite, only to realize we had left the butter out.  Oh well, they were still delicious!
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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

How $16.84 saved my sanity

So, here is a truth about my sister and I.  We hate "stuff".  We don't do knick knacks, or cutesy things in our house(s).  Clutter needs to die.  Crap underfoot drives us crazy.  My friends joke that my house usually looks like the "after" version of the show Hoarders.  I'll live in a place for at least a year before hanging photos on the wall because I just don't want extra junk around.

For you see, we are the spawn of people who have a lot of "stuff".  It's not that my parents love stuff, it's just that they're horrible about editing what they bring in to the house, and what goes out.  I think it's their gimpiness; it's harder for them to get around and organize.

We try and intervene, but the piles return, and seem to triple.  Once, when my parent's went on vacation, I flew up from Los Angeles, and my sister and I spent an entire weekend going through their house (the one Troy, Jack, and I live in now) and throwing about 50% of their stuff away.  My (now) brother-in-law helped us load the truck (cause he had one), and drove it to the dump; all under protest.  He kept saying "this is so wrong.  Please don't let them know I was a part of it".

We so ratted on him the second they came home.  Cause we're nice like that.

So, it was an eye-opening experience when I came home the other day to this.
"I learned it by watching you ok, I LEARNED IT BY WATCHING YOU".

Sigh, just looking at it makes me twitch a little.

This is the table that is in our foyer.  We come through the garage, but some how, all the stuff gets dumped upstairs on, and around this table.  It's a magnet for crud.  And it makes my eyes bleed.

I had clutter fever, and the only prescription was more organization.  You might remember my love of organization from this post.  Walking in to the Container Store or an office supply store gives me a chick boner.

I filled my prescription to cure clutter fever at a Goodwill this weekend.  I walked around the corner and found a hideous little wooden beast.  It was kitschy, tacky, and I knew instantly it must be mine.  The price tag of $12.99 was right up my alley.  The top was hideous (almost like a counter top laminate, but shiny.  Fugly), but neither Troy nor I have enough time right now, or say in the next 5 years, to refinish it to my liking.  I resolved myself to the fug, paid for the item, and headed off to the fabric store.

The previous weekend I had been at Joann's, and a woman was buying a fabric that I fell deeply in love with.  I had no need to buy it at the time, but knew that some day it would find a place in my life.  Luckily, this opportunity presented itself a mere 7 days later.

While Troy unloaded the fugly cabinet from the truck, I quickly sewed a table runner to use as a bandaid until some day in a magical world where unicorns poop glitter, and my family has enough time to recover this cabinet.

Since I was declaring a "no stuff on top of this thing" rule, I wanted something in addition to the table runner for decoration.  I remembered a cool milk bottle I had purchased at Goodwill last year that was hanging in my garage just waiting for a purpose in life.  While still in the garage, my eyes quickly fell on some peacock feathers that "Boy Boy" (named by Jack), our neighborhood peacock had molted on to our deck.

Within about 5 minutes, my entryway became a well organized place that didn't make me want to punch a nun every time I saw it.

Ahhhh.  Peaceful.  Next stop, the garage.  Any room that houses both antique milk bottles and feathers from a peacock's ass might need some tidying up...
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Monday, October 22, 2012

Mostly Homemade Mondays, week 18

It's Monday - that time of the week for Mostly Homemade Mondays - the link party for people who like cooking healthy food, but sometimes have to rely on the occasional store-bought item. And for crafty people. And gardeners.

Got something cool you posted recently on your blog? Link up so that the rest of us can see the awesomesauce!

The "rules":

1) Please link back to this post so that people reading your blog know they can find more fantastic posts here!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Meal plan for October 22nd - 28th

Phew, another busy, but fun weekend almost wrapped up!  I'm counting down the days until canning is over (I think I'll be all done in about 2ish weekends) so that I can have more normal time on weekends.  With Troy being gone, weekend evenings are my times to get stuff done for the week (and occasionally relax, but that is overrated, right?  RIGHT?), but this squirrel must hoard, so during canning season, everything takes a backseat.  Apologies to anyone who has emailed me in the last few days...I'm so behind on responding!

My tomato plants need to be pulled and the green tomatoes need to be sorted, but I just can't find the time to get that done.  Part of me isn't too motivated to do it knowing that those green tomatoes will likely turn to red tomatoes which means I'll eventually have to can them.  I don't grow things to let them go to waste, but there is a small section of my brain that says, "oh just compost everything".

This week I made another 5 quarts of tomato soup, 18 quarts of pears, and 20 quarts of applesauce.  My cousin and I picked apples at my church yesterday, and after looking at the pile of apples and trying to gauge when I could process them, I gave her the whole lot.  Troy was very proud of me.  HA!

I had some fun thrifting adventures this weekend which I will be sharing with you later this week.  Jack (such a little gentleman) also took Troy and I out to breakfast yesterday and it was SO nice to have someone else cook.  Last night, I made a meal from a Thrive package that a reader sent me to sample and it was super easy, delicious, and cooked up in 15 minutes.  I served it with some home canned peaches, and a loaf of no knead dutch oven bread that I pulled from the freezer.  Love those kinds of meals!

Here is what we're having this week:

Monday:: everyone is working late.  No dinner.  Troy and I will scavenge when we get home, and Jack will eat whatever I pack for him at my aunt's.

Tuesday:: Troy and I have been invited to a couple's house that we aren't related to.  So, an actual adult dinner party.  I'm not sure how to wrap my head around that one because I can't remember the last time it happened!  My father-in-law will be watching Jack, and I'm making them my $.42 a serving for local and organic ingredients frittata.  It will be paired with salad from the fall garden, and home canned fruit.

Wednesday:: Lentil soup in the crockpot ($.27 a serving for organic ingredients!), no knead dutch oven bread, and fruit.

Thursday:: a baked tilapia recipe I found that I've been dying to try.  It will be served with salad from the garden, rice, and fruit.

Friday:: Troy and I are celebrating our 8 year anniversary!...3 months late.  Our wedding anniversary is July 24th, and this weekend was the first time our schedules worked out to celebrate.  Our lives are awesome, right?  Jack will be staying at my in-laws, and Troy and I are using a giftcard (we've had for 4 months) to a restaurant, and then going to see Taken 2 (shouldn't it be called Takener?). much uninterrupted sleep as we want! 

Saturday:: I have a work event in the city, so the boys are on their own.  I'm guessing quesadillas will make an appearance.  And probably chocolate chips or something.

Sunday:: Dinner at my parent's. 

This week I didn't spent any money at the grocery store, but typing this menu up made me realize I need to get some heavy cream for the dessert (raspberry creme brulee) I'm taking to the dinner party, and ginger, a jalapeno, and some cilantro for the tilapia.  Darnit!  I also need our weekly half gallon of raw milk, so add $3.50 to that.

I had my monthly Azure Standard order pick up this week.  I hadn't ordered anything in two months.  I spent $172.75 on: a thing of Braggs apple cider vinegar, 40 pounds of pears, lots and lots of butter, a little container of coconut butter that I'm going to use for my lotion bars, and um, 50 pounds of russet organic potatoes.

"50 pounds of potatoes"?!?! you say?  I'm guessing your thought process is a lot like this right now:

"Who on god's green earth needs 50 pounds of potatoes"?

"Why those will go bad before her family can use them".

"Wait a second...don't tell me...".

"That dumb idiot is going to can them, isn't she"?


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

F.A.R.T.S. Number two

I've been waiting a month to say number two and FARTS in the same sentence!  Sorry fuddy duddy who commented on my last FARTS post.

F.A.R.T.S stands for Frugal Actions Related to Sustainability, i.e., little things you can do to live a more sustainable lifestyle that are also at a low price-point.

I'm sure you all know about the drought that hit the Midwest, and the East Coast, and oh, everywhere but Washington this summer.  With the drought came dying cereal crops (wheat, corn, soy, etc.) which happen to be use in a lot of processed foods.  Now we all know that processed foods aren't good for us, but they're oh so tempting, and convenient, and "cheap". With the drought this summer, those items are likely going to cost more at the grocery stores in just a few months.

I say cheap in quotes because the low upfront cost of the items end up costing you in the long run with crappy health side effects.  Now, don't think I'm sitting here in judgement. At this moment, I'm eating licorice from Costco that is not only dessert, but also dinner.  Hey, I worked a 12 hour day, then came home and canned 5 quarts of tomato soup.

I like to eat healthy, but I still buy certain processed items, and I don't feel bad about it.  Overall, we eat pretty cleanly and call it good.  I've replaced tons of store-bought items with homemade stuff, and yes, it takes more time, but in the end it is also so very much cheaper and tastier.

This month's FARTS challenge is for you to try you hand at one, just one homemade replacement for a processed item that your family enjoys.  You might find that you love your version, or meh, maybe it wasn't the recipe for you.  Start with a small thing; spending a lot of time on this won't endear you to homemade from-scratch cooking, and I don't want you cursing my name after you've been spending 3 hours on homemade crackers.

A few suggestions: ranch, hot cocoa mix, hummus, ricotta, or be daring and try marshmallows or graham crackers.  One of my favorite cookbooks is The Homemade Pantry; check it out from your library and try a few recipes!

So, what do you say?  You in?  Have any items you want to try out?  Let me know and I might have a recipe for you!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Garden debrief

There are some photos of the various items here and here.  Unless otherwise noted, all plants are grown from seeds I bought from Territorial Seeds.  And I think most are organic.  I don't earn a dime from Territorial, but I have linked the individual seeds if you're interested in purchasing your own.

I'm too tired to alphabetize, so let's start with zucchini.

Patio Star - this actually grew much much bigger than the photo on the website.  It was a heavy producer, and I really enjoyed the taste of the veg.

Black Beauty - I think I only harvested like 7 zucchini from this huge plant.  Patio Star will be my zuke of choice for next year.  The plant is below.

Romance - yeah, but mine didn't look a thing like that.  Part of it is where I planted.  It's pretty shallow, but we (I) already have plants for increasing the depth of the planting area next year.  Just you wait!

Yaya - decent.  I've planted some in the fall garden, so we'll see how they do in really deep soil!

Small sugar - pretty plants, and decent sized pumpkins.  I had 3 plants, and netted 7 pumpkins that are ripe, and 2 more than are ripening.  After a late night of canning pumpkin, I'm pretty sure that I'm going to be only planting two plants next year; I did 3.

Chioggia - Meh.  "Nough said.

Bulls Blood - YUM.  'Nough said.

Brandywine - always a winner even if it takes 1,000 days to ripen in the Pacific Northwest "Summer".

San Marzano - a stinker in my garden.  Will never plant again.  Got so much blossom end rot, and I probably only harvested about 15 all summer.  From 2 plants.  It's probably great in other climates.

Heinz - fantastic (and I need to apologize because I labeled it a stinker in this post.  And it wasn't.  I had the wrong tomato).  Great yield, and a super deep tomatoy tomato.  Yep, that's right.  A tomatoy tomato.  It gave my homemade tomato soup a very deep color, and the flavor was great.

Indigo Rose - a rose by any other name would suck as much as this plant.  Like the Heinze, it could definitely be my garden and our summers, but I hate this tomato.  It didn't taste any different than any other tomato, and it took forever to ripen.  Oh, and you only know they're ripe if the bottom of the tomato turns pink.  But if you move the tomato a bit to see if it is ripe, the stupid thing falls off the vine.  I'm pissed at myself for wasting space in the garden for TWO of these plants.

Flamme - this is from the farmer's market, and is hands down my favorite tomato ever.  It is the first to ripen, it never splits, the flavor is amazing, and it tastes delicious in anything and everything.  Sadly, I can't find these seeds anywhere, but the lovely lady at our farmer's market sells the plants 3, for $12.

My cucumber plants never sprouted, but that is my fault for trying to plant the seeds directly in the ground.  I'm so starting them in seed beds next year.

I also screwed up and planted my fall seedlings too late to actually get in the garden beds, so I had to purchase all my seedlings from a hardware store.  Oh well, next year shall be different.  That is what I tend to tell myself every year.  It's either optimism or insanity.

Only time will tell which one.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Mostly Homemade Mondays Week 17

It's Monday - that time of the week for Mostly Homemade Mondays - the link party for people who like cooking healthy food, but sometimes have to rely on the occasional store-bought item. And for crafty people. And gardeners.

Got something cool you posted recently on your blog? Link up so that the rest of us can see the awesomesauce!

The "rules":

1) Please link back to this post so that people reading your blog know they can find more fantastic posts here!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Meal plan for October 15th - 21st

I'm sitting here late late late on a Saturday waiting for my pressure canner to finish up the approximately 1 billion pints of pumpkin I'm canning.  Did you know it takes freaking 55 minutes to process pumpkin chunks in a pressure canner?  55 minutes!!  I want to be in bed.

I hate myself a little bit for doing this.  Why couldn't I just grow pumpkins for decoration?  Like ohhhh, pretty pumpkins on the front porch.  "Look (insert neighbor spouse's name), isn't Sarah whimsical?  She has pumpkins on her front porch.  Adorable!  She looks so refreshed and well rested too".

I'm an idiot people. 

But you know what?

I have ice cream cake.  Oh yes I do!

It's leftover from my birthday party last weekend.

Mmmmmm.  I would like to start the slow clap for the genius who created the middle layer that is fudge and crunchy cookie thingies.  Please join me in the making it a standing ovation.

I am also drinking a mug of water kefir soda that was in the back of the fridge for a bit and has gone a little boozy.  The rest of this post could get fun!

Other than the self flagellation - which I read about in The DaVinci Code (I hope this doesn't ruin any cred regarding literature I might have with you.  I was the only 6th grader in my school to read Roots afterall) and I think it means beating yourself up, and I hope it doesn't mean anything dirty - I've been meal planning!  Wanna see what we're eating this week?

Monday:: Crockpot pork chops (if the recipe is yummy, I'll share it with you next week), rice, and some veg.  Jack and I eat dinner at the in-laws on Mondays because they live like 4 feet from Monday night's soccer practice.  I'm providing the chops, and MIL is kicking in some rice and veg.

Tuesday:: Baked potato bar, tomato soup, and something from the garden.  I think the lettuce and spinach that Jack "planted" last month is ready to harvest.

Wednesday::  Pot roast in the crockpot with carrots and spuds from the garden (woot woot), salad, and dutch oven bread.

Thursday:: I'm working stupid late, so Jack and Troy will have mac and cheese from the freezer, and I'm just going to guess NOT eat the veggies I'll prep for them.  So, let's say mac and cheese, fruit leather, and probably some home canned pears.

Friday:: Popcorn dinner.  Hurray!  Popcorn, veggie sticks, cheese slices, and fruit.  Best day of the week!

Saturday::  Chili, cornbread, and some veg.  Let's see what is up in the garden, shall we?

Sunday:: Dinner at my parents?  My mom is getting sprung from the gimp hut on Tuesday, so we'll see how she is feeling.

I spent $38.16 at the grocery store, $3.50 for raw milk, and $42 at the "bacon store" for pork chops, chicken, and bacon (there is a shortage coming people.  BE PREPARED).

How about you, what is on the menu?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Happy Friday!

The forecast calls for rain later today and this whole weekend, so I spent Thursday harvesting as many ripe and almost ripe tomatoes as I could.  I was scrambling before the sun went down at 6:40 pm.  Sigh.  During June and July it's light until 10 pm.

On Monday, I also cleaned up the pumpkin patch a bit and harvested these pretty ladies. 

There are two more on the vine in various stages of ripening.  Who knows if they'll turn before the weather no longer cooperates.  Oh well, I'm pleased I got so many from such a small space.  They're organic "small sugar" from Territorial Seeds.  Read about them here.

Next weekend if time allows, I'm going to try my hand at pressure canning chunks of pumpkin for later use.  Pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, and pumpkin pancakes (just for you darling Mary) all year long?  Yes please!

I'm going to be canning some tomato soup tonight.  When I told the basket of produce the good news, let's just say someone was excited to become a delicious and nourishing soup!

Have a blessed weekend everyone!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Planting garlic - a how to, complete with horrible photos!

Last year I bought my seed garlic from Azure Standard (Bair Organics, Killarney Hardneck).  A little bit about this garlic from Azure's website:

A very good producer. It has thin pink bulb wrappers with lots of purple and brown. 8-9 easily peeled cloves in a bulb up to 2 1/2".  When growing,it is better adapted to wetter conditions than most others.

It was pretty spendy ($16 for 1 pound), but the results were great!  I basically planted them and ignored them for 10 months, and they produced wonderful results.  Plant, ignore, and harvest?  That is my favorite kind of crop!  This year after drying (curing) my garlic, I decided to forgo purchasing new seed garlic, and am going to plant the biggest, healthiest bulbs from the crop that I harvested in August.  We'll see.  It could bomb. It could be awesome. But what is gardening other than gambling every time you plant something in the ground.

Farmer's markets (if they're still happening in your area that is) are great places to get great local seeds.  It is not too late to plant garlic in some zones; my zone, zone 8 being one of them!

Today I'm talking about how to plant your own garlic.  The photos are AWFUL, I apologize, but the light is getting wonky in this fall season, and I have limited planting time and it's during the time of day when photos are the worst.  You're welcome!  

There are essential two types of garlic - hardneck and softneck.  Hardneck "keeps" (stores) for a shorter amount of time, but is wicked easy to plant, and gives you scapes in summer, which seems like bonus garlic to me.

Softneck stores better for longer periods of time, but can be a bit more fussy.  Confused about which to plant?  Try both if you have the space!

Prepare your space
This area had peas and beets planted here over the spring/summer.  I broke up the soil, and added some fresh dirt that I have in a pile in my driveway.  I also put a sprinkler on low for about 20 minutes because Seattle has had a record dry spell, and just surpassed the driest August and September ever on record.  We've gone something like 81 days with almost no measurable rain.  Hot damn!

After doing all that, I made little slots about 2 inches deep, and 2 inches apart from each other.  I just used a little hand trowel.  Overexposed, and blurry?  Yowzer.

Here is my "seed" garlic.

Break apart the cloves, trying your best to keep them wrapped in their papery covers.

Hold the garlic so the pointy end is pointing towards the sky.  Bad picture again.  Shut up, I know.

Put one clove in the the prepared hole so that the pointy end remains pointing up.  You might have to push it down a little bit.

Cover with soil, then cover with mulch of some sort.  The mulch keeps the weeds down over the fall, winter, spring, and until harvesting next summer.  It also holds in the moisture if you live in a dry area, and keeps the soil from washing away if you live in my neck of the woods.

And now, comes my favorite part.  Ignore those suckers until March or April of next year.  At that point, you'll need to do a little weeding, and then you get to ignore them again until August!  Because this is such a long-growing crop, please keep in mind that where you are planning to plant the garlic will be out of commission for essentially the whole next growing season.

There you have it, you're done.  You're now a garlic farmer/gardener.  For about one hour of work, you get more garlic than you'll know what to do with.  Perhaps some roasted garlic and baked brie in puff pastry? 

Don't mind if I do.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

31 for 31. The Brithday Project

Some time last year my friend Anne sent me a link to The Birthday Project.  It was such a cool idea - you spend your birthday doing good deeds for others; one deed per year you've been alive.  I decided then and there to spend my next birthday doing just that.

I took over a month to plan and get all strategic, and get things ready.  A few things were done the week of the big birthday because of convenience and timing.  And of course I took you all along for the ride.

How I spent my day last Friday:

1) Gave blood.  For the first time!  For most of my life I was hypoglycemic and was a bit underweight and therefore couldn't give blood.   Since I switched to a whole foods diet, the hypoglycemia has vanished.  What a great surprise!  I still hadn't give blood though, but my mind was changed two weeks ago when my momma was in the hospital.  Mom was given a blood transfusion, and that was a wake up call that some stranger's act helped my mom heal and get better.

Let's talk about this picture for a second.  If you ever decide to have your photo taken while giving blood, ask the female and NOT the male vampires to take the photo.  That dress is super cute in person, but this photo makes me look like I'm dressed in an end of days period costume.

2) Donated to KUOW (local NPR channel) after years of being a free-loader.

3) Wrote a thank you note to Jack's preschool teacher and the paraeducator for his room.

4) Sent thank you notes to two instructors I had in high school.
5) Left goodies for our trash and recycling people.

6) Left cookies for our librarians.

7) Left cookies for the woman who runs our post office.  We're a small town and no one has mail service.  Everyone has a post office box and this woman is a busy bee!

8) Left tennis balls at an off-leash dog park.

9) Went to my sister's work to wash her filthy windshield, and left her a note letting her know how much I love her.

10) Went down to an area of town where people park and commute to a large employer.  You'd be shocked at how many people wouldn't take a free cookie from me.  This guy however...

11) Dropped off cookies and a thank you note at our local police department.

12) Went to a local coffee stand where my sister-in-law gets her coffee every morning.  I had a plan to get her a coffee, but the little turd had already been through there that morning.  I left a note and a $5 bill for the next person to drive up to the stand.

13) Since the hosebeast that I call my sister-in-law spoiled the coffee surprise, I brought her some cookies too.

14) Took cookies to Troy's grandma's house.  She wasn't home.  She called me later to say they were the best cookies she's ever had (recipe here) and that she ate two of them.  That may sound silly, but she is allergic to everything under the sun.  We joke she survives on air.  So for her to eat them (and keep them down) AND enjoy them, was huge!

15) Went to Troy's other grandma's house to leave her cookies.  She wasn't wigged up and was in a housecoat, so no photos!

16) Left $1 bills in a parking garage with a note to use one if they were short on cash for parking.

17) Dropped off coffee for my amazing in-laws.

18) Went to Toys R Us and put quarters in some of the vending machine slots.

19) Went to the library with the intent on putting $1 bills in some of my favorite young reader books.  Then this book caught my eye and I knew I had to put one in there too!

20) Headed to Joann's and snagged a number at the cutting counter.  I hate waiting in line at Joann's for fabric to be cut; I swear they only ever have three employees staffed in the whole store during any given shift.

So, when my number was called (94), I asked who 95 was and handed her my ticket.  She was so excited that she let me take her picture!

21) Dropped off water bottles on a long hiking trail.

22) Taped microwave popcorn to the Redbox at an Albertson's store.

23) Returned carts at Costco.

Cleared these ones from the little unloading zone next to a handicap spots.  Tsk tsk rude people!

24) I helped some people unload their groceries at Costco.  No photos; my hands were busy!

Quick break to treat myself to a high-quality lunch.

25) Dropped off cookies and thank yous to the labor and delivery nurses where Jack and my nephew were born.

26 ) Left cookies and a thank you note for the lactation consultant who spent so much damn time with me in those first few weeks.  I remember her audibly gasping when she saw the carnage that my pirana child had caused.

27) Took some crayons and little crafty things to the ER.

28) Brought my mom dinner at the gimp hut.

29) Donated some crosswords to the gimp hut for the residents.

30) My mom always talks about how much she misses my sister and I being little enough to rock.  So for my 30th deed, I let the old broad rock me!

31) I had a "sleep party" with my kiddo.  He loves these so much and always asks me to have a sleep over.  This turned out to be a great gift to myself, because Jack slept until 8 am!!  Homeboy usually wakes up between 5:45 and 6:15 am on weekends.  This was bliss.

All in all, this was one of the best birthdays I've ever had.  I spent the day doing fun things and making other people smile; what could be better!

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