Monday, January 27, 2014

A Fun Whale For A Special Boy

A good friend of ours turned one on Friday.  We were kindly invited to the party.  I remembered, the morning of, that I needed to make a gift.  My mind has definitely been elsewhere.  I ran a quick Google search for "easy stuffed animal patterns" and found a super cute whale on Etsy, where I could purchase the pattern for 7.50 Euros or something.  I read something once that said something to the effect of people only look at Etsy for ideas to rip off.  Who needs a pattern?  Not me.  We rummaged through the stash to find some colorful flannel, perfect for a little boy to cuddle.  Then trial and error, sew and resew, stuff and unstuff and stuff again.  Finally, we had a completed whale.  Not perfect, but lovable.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

It Might As Well Be Spring - Jan. 23, 2014

Tomatillo Husk with seeds intact
Garden Sorrel
  A couple days ago, I was out in the garden, mowing and starting to kill more lawn with cardboard for increased veggie garden space.  I was looking around at the remains of last year's garden, which still needs to be cleaned up.  We had a very busy fall.  I was pleased to see the garden sorrel fairing well, a few chard plants enduring, some overwintering cabbage heads not completely mollusk eaten.  I marveled at the skeletonized tomatillo husks all over the ground, and the few runner bean pods that missed the harvest.  The rhubarb was starting to poke its shoots up a little, and then I said to myself, "WAIT, IT'S ONLY JANUARY!"  We have had a few unseasonably warm days here in Western Washington, with hard freezes at night.  I have woken up to find frost covering everything, but here is the rhubarb plant determined that it is spring.
    I started looking around some more, and found every hellebore plant with nodding blooms already open.  The hellebores are also called Lenten Roses, because they bloom during the season of Lent, which according to my calendar is nearly six weeks away at this point.  I spied green buds swelling on the combination plum tree, that has yet to ever bloom or fruit, so it is still a mystery what varieties have been grafted onto the central trunk.  Daffodil, tulip, muscari and bluebell leaves all are pushing their way out of the soil. Then from the corner of my eye, I saw something golden in the mulch around the blueberries... crocuses.  It really must be spring.
    All this early growth worries me.  Most all of these early risers will withstand the frosts, but if we get an ice storm, or snow that melts and freezes, most of the growth will be doomed to start again late, or never again. I wonder if an early spring is definitely upon us, and we will have an early summer too, or if there will be devastation in a few weeks time as winter resumes. 
  As I type this, I am nestled in a comfy chair, in a spot of sun, with a warm mug of barley tea, relishing in these glorious pseudo spring days.  I can feel the sun's rays penetrate my soul. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Huge Failure, Delightful Surprises

   Let's get the failure out of the way first.  I tried something new and I failed and I can't figure out exactly why.  I made a double batch of Boston Baked Beans from the Ball Blue Book and I attempted to double deck the pints in the pressure canner.  I was a little distracted, the pressure went a little too high at one point.  When the required canning time was over and the pressure had reduced, I opened the canner to find the water mixed with baked bean liquid, the jars all covered in stickiness and six of the twelve jars not sealed.  Five of those jars, had their contents emptied into Ziploc freezer bags and into the deep freeze they went.  The final unsealed jar went to a dinner of beanie weenies and organic mac 'n cheese.  As far as I know, I had the right headspace, I cleaned the jars after filling and releasing the air bubbles, I had the right amount of water in the canner, I used a rack to double deck the pints as the canner manufacturer suggests.  Utterly baffled.
    Next comes the surprises.  First, when we were looking around at one of our local Goodwill stores, I ran across a lovely, brand new, cup and saucer, still in original packaging.  I didn't have a cup and saucer in Woodland pattern, and I didn't need it.  My motivation for purchasing it was simple.  For years, I have been able to find Pyrex tea cups and Corelle saucers, and they were shelved and priced separately, and I could, and did, match them together. I was mystified that I never came across any Pyrex saucers, and any Corelle tea cups, had a strange open hooked handle.  I just figured that all of the Pyrex saucers were broken, and only the cups remained.  Now I have finally discovered the truth.  The underside of the cup had the Pyrex label, the underside of the saucer is marked Corelle, They are wrapped together and sold as a set.  Mystery solved!
    The second surprise was in the garden.  In the fall, light frosts killed the sunchoke (or Jerusalem Artichoke) tops, but I had to wait until after a hard freeze to harvest.  I had originally received free tubers from another freecycler.  I brought them home and didn't have time to plant them right away, and by the time I got around to them it was summer and some were sprouting in the box, while others were soft and moldy.  I grabbed two burlap sacks from a stash I have accumulated from a local coffee roaster, filled them each with half a bag of organic potting soil, plunged those wizzled leggy tubers under the soil. I watered and mulched as the summer went on and cut the flowers in the fall to encourage tuber production, not knowing what was going on under the dirt.  The holidays came, we were out of town, then life changed as I knew it and other things took priority.  Until a couple days ago.  I was on the phone with my Aunt and it dawned on me...  I need to harvest the sunchokes.  Yesterday the kiddo and I went out on a sunny January late morning and dug around in the 40 degree soil in those decomposing burlap sacks and unearthed eight and a quarter pounds of sunchoke tubers.  Fat, earthy, knobbly, crunchy goodness.  We tasted them raw for the first time ever.  Yes, I planted a crop of sunchokes, when we had never tasted them before.  I can't wait to oven roast them with garlic for our guest on Saturday.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

New Life, New Blog

    As 2014 rang in, I found out that life as I knew it would change, and I would have no control over that event.  While I am still learning and understanding what change will mean to me and my family, I have decided to take charge of the things I can control, within reason.
    I am an extremely private and protective person, so while I am blogging, I will refrain from using anyone's real name, nor post any identifying characteristics of us or our community.  I will say that we live in Western Washington, blocks from the Puget Sound, about an hour away from Seattle in a midsized city of around 40,000 people.  This will be pertinent to any gardening posts.
    Our 1910 house is situated in the old downtown area on a 1/4 acre lot.  Downtown has been half-heartedly attempting a revitalization of sorts for several years.  Our house is an amalgam of restoration, remodel and make-do, with a wish list a mile long.
    Because we are in downtown, there are laws in place restricting pets and livestock.  We are allowed to have a number of laying hens contained in a backyard with a license.  We love our feathered girls and are always trying out new egg using recipes. We have a one year old puppy that I affectionately nicknamed Booger, and she manages to get into trouble daily.  Unless the laws change, we will probably never be able to raise broilers or have a mini cow. Time will tell.
    We have been growing fruits and vegetables in our yard, then harvesting, eating and preserving them through various methods. This year I believe will be our biggest garden ever. I hope to document the triumphs and trials of growing food organically as well as recipes and techniques.  I have canned (both water bath and pressure), fermented, pickled, dehydrated, stored and frozen our produce as well as abundance found at markets and local farms.  I am a lifetime adventurous home cook experimenting with different cuisines, whole foods, gluten free and paleo dishes.  I love to feed my family organic, local and seasonal food, as well as healthify family recipes.
    At times, I sew, knit, crochet, paint, craft, and create.  Sometimes I create out of love, sometimes to meet a need, and a lot of times because the kiddo wants to.  As these occasions spring up, I will make efforts to document them here.  Currently there is a pile of mending, a pile of tote bags to be completed, a quilt to make for a big kiddo bed, curtains to be assembled, a crocheted cardigan to finish, the hope of several amigurumi, a stuffed dog for a new baby, several dresses for a growing kiddo, aprons to fashion.  All of this likely can be accomplished through accumulated stash, but we shall see.
   Over time I have become a fairly obsessive thrifter.  Most of the time, all of our clothing and housewares have been obtained through thrift, freecycling, craigslist, friends, except for those most personal of things like underwear.  I have made decisions to opt for new more efficient appliances, as the old have keeled-over, but at the same time, I keep my eye out and be patient for a stovetop espresso pot or a pizza peel.  I am having a minor love affair with all things Pyrex, within reason.  I envision sharing these finds and the outcome of their integration into our lives.
    We'll see how this goes, if I am able to consistently post, if I remember to get out the camera and document while in the throws of life.