Monday, August 31, 2009

I will hopefully be returning to my regular blogging tomorrow. Coming soon: new sweater in progress, squash bugs, and chicken scandal.

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Can't talk now... Pizza night! :-D

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Feeling refreshed, with a new sense of purpose. I can't wait to get home and get back to work!

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

If you've noticed my tweets, you'll probably have gathered I'm in Chicago. I tagged along on a business trip. Relaxing in hotel rooms!

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Linky Day

If St. Paul Annoys You...
I just read a fascinating post on the nature of obedience and leadership here.

Conversion Diary is an excellent blog that's quite well written, and always gives me tons of inspiration and lots to think over.

I'm Completely on the Ree Bandwagon
Ree Drummond has a beautiful and very multifaceted blog. And the readership and advertising to back it up. My favorite parts are the recipes and food photos.

According to the Hole in my Purse
I need to make some of these. Soon.

Only 122 days till Christmas
So I may be putting this off till Christmas 2o1o

What's more ridiculous...
spending hours and hours online watching role playing games, or spending hours of you life online watch hilariously fun shows about people who spend hours playing role playing games?

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Green Smoothies Gone PURPLE!

I'll admit it. I have a hard time eating all the fruits and vegetables I should. I do serve veggies in our lunches and plan fruit for breakfasts, but I tend to forget at dinner time to make sure there's a veggie, and even if I remember, it's not nearly the amount I should be eating. I just don't enjoy them as much as other foods, and wasn't really raised to eat them. I suspect that a lot of people have the same problem when it comes to having learn healthy eating.

So, I've been counteracting that! In addition to including the veggie sides on my weekly menus, and planning vegetarian meals more often, Ben and I have been making and drinking a weekly green smoothie. Actually, they're purple colored, but green because they include veggies as well as fruit.

Here's my favorite recipe that we've developed so far:

About a 1/2 cup of orange juice
A couple of cups of spinach
1 cucumber
4 stalks of celery
1 apple
1/2 inch or so of ginger, peeled
1 other fruit (plums, grapes, strawberries, peaches... whatever we pick up that week)
1 cup or so of frozen blueberries
the juice of one lemon or lime

I use the stick blender to blend this all up together (though I'm sure a regular blender would be better, if I had one), grinding each new addition completely and then adding the next ingredient chopped into big pieces. I leave the peels on the cucumbers and the fruits.

If, like my sister, you prefer to have protein in combination with your carbs, you could also add whey protein powder or yogurt. I've never tried that, so I don't know if it would be good or not. Personally, I'd probably just have some boiled egg whites at the same time.

We split this between us, and we each get about four cups of smoothie from this recipe. I like to make it when Ben gets home, and then we drink it while I fix dinner, because that's the time of day we're both hungriest and most likely to overeat. It makes a great breakfast too.

This smoothie is really tasty, and if you don't mind drinking thick, slightly chunky things, it makes it really simple to fill right up on the good for us stuff. One drawback I can see is that it is a bit time consuming to make, especially since everything has to be cleaned up right away, to avoid the little pieces drying on and becoming impossible to remove. So, on very busy days, it's not too practical. I've been trying to think of some ways to make it more convenient, like freezing it or maybe drying it like a leather? I'd also like to solve the problem of having to buy things to make it out of season. One thought I had was to stock up on the ingredients in bulk, either locally or homegrown, as they come into season, and then freeze that puree in muffin pans to make indivual serving purees. Then these could just be thrown together and allowed to thaw and mix in the right proportions. I'll have to experiment with that part of it, I guess.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Mid Season Gardening Slump

I'm feeling a little sick of my garden lately. Maybe I'm just feeling sick of summer. I get like that about summer, I have opposite-SAD. Or it could be that I've been babying and mulching and weeding since May, and I have yet to harvest much of anything. I'm not complaining about that, because it's all definately on it's way. I'm just thinking that might account for the lack of motivation. I'll be glad when there are tomatoes to can and green beans to eat. And I can only imagine that it'll be exciting to make a pie from those sunberries when they ripen!

I've got some solutions for my slump though. Next week, I'm going to be able to get away for a couple of days. Ben's driving to Chicago for a meeting, and I get to tag along (because he's a super-awesome husband) and stay at the hotel. Pretend I'm a lady of leisure and clean the dirt out from under my nails. We'll be staying by the lakefront, so I'll really be getting away from it all.

And in a few weeks, my mom and sister will be visiting, and there's really nothing like visitors who will show an interest to jumpstart my enthusiasm for my projects.

I bought some beautiful magazines last week about homemaking called Seasons at Home, and they came today. I'm excited and tempted to jump right in and read them all, but I think I'll just start with one, and save the rest for reading while I relax in the car and at the hotel next week.

I ignored the garden today, and cleaned and baked instead. Then I knit, and I un-monkeyfied the baby sweater I'm making. I just have to put on the neck ribbing, sew on the buttons and weave in the ends, and it'll be all finished. Then I might break out that beautiful new wool I got on Saturday and seen how the colors will look knit up together.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Cinderella

This morning I made the mistake of asking Ben if there was anything he'd like me to take care of today. Of course, out of all the things he could have wanted, which is usually nothing, when I ask him most days, he asks me to clean the baseboards.

I hate cleaning baseboards. The only up side to it is that whenever I scrub on my hands and knees with a bucket around, I get to sing "Oh, Sing Sweet Nightingale" and pretend I'm in Cinderella. Oh sure, sometimes I mix things up a bit and sing "In My Own Little Corner".

Anyway, I got the job half done, with the other half for tomorow. That was pretty much my big accomplishment for today. I might have gotten all of them scrubbed, but I got distracted in the kitchen, and wiped down all the appliances and cupboards and cabinet fronts. I'm glad to have that done, since I'll be having company in a couple of weeks! It's time for a push in cleaning house.

Last night, I finished the baby sweater I've been working on, but it would only have worked if my in-laws were to have a monkey-baby. Much too long in the sleeves. I ripped it back, and I'm trying again with a lot fewer plain rounds between the raglan decrease rounds. When I started taking it back, Ben asked, "don't you want their monkey-baby to be warm?" He's hilarious, that Ben.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

New Yarn

On Saturday, after having new tires put on the car, Ben and I went into St. Louis to pick up tickets for the Cardinals' Stitch n Pitch game. My mom and sister are going to be in town, and we wanted to make sure we had the tickets in plenty of time. And while we were at an awesome yarn store, I could hardly resist picking out some new yarn. This wasn't really a spur of the moment purchase though, since I already knew just what I wanted.

I want to make myself a light grey sweater with a fair isle band of thistle flowers across the chest, so I went to pick out the yarn for that project. They had to order the light grey for me, but I was able to bring home the colors I want to use for the color-work. I'm really looking forward to playing around with these and coming up with the design I want to use.

This sweater project is behind a couple in line, first being the baby sweater I'm hoping to finish today. And I have a large gauge wool from the craft store I used to work for in AZ that I want to use to make a sweater for myself, as practice before I start this one, with more complicated techniques and more expensive yarn.

Here's a post from three years ago when I bought the yarn I'm going to make my first sweater from. The store was going out of business, and this wool is so soft and lovely, I'm still hyped, three years later, about that deal. Anyway, I had a sweater in progress for Ben from that yarn, but I ripped it out before we moved here, because it came out way to large, and he wouldn't have worn it. His is supposed to be black, red and white, and someday I might start again and make it. Mine will be pink, black and white. I'm hoping to start that project today, if I finish the little baby sweater that's sitting here looking forlorn because I'm planning other projects.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

State of the Homestead Address

I had a dream last night in which I was asking my Boston in-laws, who are both landscape architects, whether they think to themselves as they work, "I'll put a happy little tree right there, and a happy little shrub right there!" And that struck me as so funny that I laughed out loud in real life and woke myself up. And if my Boston in-laws happen to be reading this post, they probably don't want to read the whole thing, because there are spoilers ahead.

I completely forgot to post yesterday. I meant to, but I guess I got too wrapped up in my knitting to get around to it. Anway, I was planning a bit of a mid-week "state of things" post, so I'll just do that today.

Tomatoes are setting fruit and look like they'll do pretty well. A lot of the Opalkas are mis-shapen, cresents and bulbous tops with skinny pointy ends. We're figuring that's because of the dry spell we've been having, and I've instituted bi-weekly deep waterings. The Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes are heavy on and starting to ripen. I'm excited to get my dehydrator going on those.

The butternut squash have started to set they're squashes, and honestly is there anything cuter in the garden than a baby squash? They're just like the big ones, but, well... little.

There's six really good-sized birdhouse gourds on the vine right now, and I suppose there could still be more to come as well.

The lady godiva squash are ripening, but they seem a bit undersized, so I hope they actually have seeds inside. There are a ton of them though, so as long as they do have seeds, there should be plenty to eat.

My cucumbers that have not been eaten by weeds are starting to ripen. I think I'll be able to pick some early next week. I didn't plant too many, since this year we just want them for eating fresh, not for pickling. We have plenty of last year's pickles in store still.

The two watermelons have one baby watermelon between them. It's a little bigger than a softball right now, and I really hope that the vines don't die and nothing happens to it, because I really want to eat watermelon from my own garden. Even if it is just the one. I think it's so slow going and un-prolific because of the very wet and cool summer we had up until a few weeks ago. It wasn't till the temps went up that they started growing much.

The pepers are doing well. I learned that one of the ones I thought was a King of the North is really a Hot Portugal. So that makes five of each of those two kinds. They all have peppers on the plants, though the plants are very small still. But they are very healthy looking.

The carrots seem to be doing their thing. I'm still tempted to pull them, but it's still not time.

The contender bush beans I planted in one of the empty spots in the yard (from the chicken coop, they go back to grass pretty quickly, but I wanted to try an experiment on this one) are doing pretty well. The grass is sneaking in a bit, but not as bad as in the garden, ironically. And because the rows are only three feet long, it's easy to sit on one side and weed the whole row. The bush beans I planted by the sunflowers in the new plot on the east side of the yard are doing well too, coming back after a DamnBunny decided they were it's own salad bar. They have to get weeded though, since the grass is encroaching.

The chickens are well. I got a few very small eggs from them last week (the mature ladies, not the pullets), so I'm a little concerned that some of them might be considering retirement. I'd think it's much too soon for that, but they did lay very steadily all winter long, so maybe it's a possiblity. I might have to threaten them. The pullets are doing just fine. I'm still a little worried that they might pick on Matilda a lot when they're all together, since she'll be the only white one and the only Araucana. I'll just have to take care of that when the time comes though. For now, I'm watching them for signs of pullet eggs, but I'm thinking it'll be at least Sept. and maybe Oct. before we have to have that little talk about they're changing bodies.

My tan is ridiculous. My family would be surprised to see me tan, since I'm notoriously pale and burn-y. But even through the spf 50, I've gotten qute the farmer's tan. It's Agri-tastic.

I've been knitting baby things for my Boston in-laws new baby. I wanted to get a layette done in time for the shower that's going to be in Oct, so that means knitting in the summer, when I usually save that for the winter. But I prefer the excuse to break out my needles! The little one's due in December, so I thought warm things in newborn -3 mos sizes would actually get used, instead of grown out of. I'm using the Sweater Workshop as the instructions in order to practice for when I make my own sweater with those instructions. I'm hoping to finish the baby sweater today, and then I'm might cheat and start my own sweater. Purely becasue the method will still be fresh in my mind! Not at all because I'm sick of gardening and just want to knit all day instead.

A couple of years ago, my dad bought me a table top weaving loom at an auction sale, and I've moved it from house to house, knowing that I'd never get rid of something he'd pick out for me, knowing how much I'd like it, even if I had no idea how to use it. Well, I got it out last week, and tried threading it from my little knowledge of weaving and how it works. I broke some of the nuts that hold it together though, so I'll have to replace those before I can actually try it. In the meantime, I emailed the company, NSI, and asked them if I could somehow get the instructions. And even though they haven't made it for years and years, they dug up the instructions and are sending a copy to me. I doubt replacement nuts are possible though... I'll have to go to the hardware store instead.

I've dug some of the potatoes. I was thinking that I'd just dig them a few at a time as they were needed, but a couple of them have been gnawed and chewed, so I'm thinking my best choice may be to get them all dug as soon as I can and rescue them from the mice. I'd like to get an outside cat to take care of the mice, but Ben doesn't want another cat, and I can admit that it hardly seems fair to have three spoiled indoor cats, and then get another and make it work for a living as a mouser. Not that the three we have wouldn't be great mouse catchers, it's just that the mice know better than to come into their territory.

Our friend Ken brought us some figs from his mom in Georgia, along with lots of peppers and tomatoes and cucumbers and eggplant. The figs and tomatoes I dried, and the cucumbers are a wonderful snack. They're the true English cucumber kinds and so tender and nice. The hot peppers Ben turned into a pepper sauce the other night, fumigating us from the kitchen and making my nose and eyes burn. He says it's delicious.

I'm very excited because I learned that I can buy and download recent episodes of Mythbusters and Dirty Jobs from Amazon. Now if only Food Network would do the same with all of their shows. Or better yet, put all the Food Network programming on Fancast, then all my tv withdrawl would be cured.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sunberries - A week later

I wouldn't usually bother to post plant updates just a week a part, but these crazy plants grew so much since I took a picture last week, that I just had to go take another picture and show you all. The one above is the same picture I posted last Tuesday.

And here are the pictures that I just took this morning. I swear, you can practically see this thing growing. I had to hold the camera way higher in order to get all of it into the picture too.

This is just two plants, and I had them spaced two feet apart, but maybe I should have given them more room. They're starting to crowd the pepper plants in the row next to them a bit. If they keep growing so crazy, I might have to try to stake them away from the peppers or something.
Still, none have ripened, so I don't know yet if this big growth spurt is a really great thing, or if it just means more berries that we might not like.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Root Beer Tasting

Ben and I love to have taste tests. When we lived in AZ, we once had a blind taste test to decide the best root beer that our local grocery store carried. I think that one was mainly so I could prove that I could tell the difference among them by smell. I can be a know-it-all sometimes. As if you all haven't noticed! :)

Well, the farm stand down the road has about a million different kinds of root beer to choose from, so we had another root beer tasting. This time we didn't bother to set it up to be a blind test, since we didn't really have any vested interest in any of these unknown-to-us brands.

Of course, any tasting needs high class palate cleansers.

The winner! Sioux City had the most genuine "root beer" flavor. Black Cow proved to be too sweet and fake tasting for Ben's taste, and Baumeister had a licorice/anise/mace hit that was way too much for me. The Abita was a very close second, but we both agreed that it was a bit too sharp and hard flavored. We take our root beer seriously around here.
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Now that I've given a peek into the incredible weirdness of our household, here's an update on things around here:
I got a load of manure delivered yesterday. I was thrilled. I can't wait to amend things with it. Well, soil, I guess, I can't think what else I'd amend.
I'd like to do some knitting today, there's some babies on the way that need warm things. But my hands and wrists have been in an awful lot of pain lately. That's from my thyroid disorder, but I don't know how to treat it other than painkillers, which I try to avoid. It's very frustrating, because my hands will cramp and spasm, so if anyone has suggestions on that one, I'd be happy to try them.
I made cupcakes in trade for the guy who delivered my manure for me yesterday (he got paid by the place that had it to take it away, so it was a pretty good deal for him, since then he had a place to dump it), and there's a few left. I tried to get Ben to take them to work, but he didn't want to. Oh well, guess I'll just have to eat one. Too bad.
The sunberry plants have grown so much in the week since I posted the picture. I'll have to take another, I think they're half as big again in just a week. I do hope we like eating them, because we'll get plenty.
There are lots of tomatoes ready to ripen and tons of hot portugal peppers on the plants. I'm glad to see that attempt going well. And the potatoes are almost ready to dig!

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Friday, August 07, 2009

"The time has come", the Beppy said,

"to talk of many things..."


I'm really looking forward to seeing all these sunflowers bloom. They'll be so cheerful looking! There's two rows to the right in the photo as well, that I planted two weeks after these very large ones were planted. I'm hoping that some of them will be blooming in Sept for my sister's birthday when she and my mom visit.
Work is continuing on my plan to put lasagna style garden beds everywhere it's hard to get the lawn mower. I weed wacked very close to the ground, soaked lots of newspapers and cardboard, and started layering.

On top of all that, I piled on the grass clippings. That's all the layers I have so far, but someday maybe I'll get some manure. A girl can dream, can't she? Actually, a guy with a horse farm not far from here is supposed to be delivering some this weekend, so that'll be great if he follows through.

Gooseberry Tart. I've had these berries in the freezer since last summer when we house-sat for the neighbors and picked their bushes when they were gone. Ben liked it, but I didn't care for it at all. Those things are sour! It was like pickled cherries or something. I won't be planting gooseberries any time soon.

I embroidered these napkins as part of the Blue and Brown swap I was in recently. I made a set of four, and soon I'm planning a how-to post on an easy way to embroider the corners of napkins. I loved these so much, I really had to talk myself into adding them to the swap box. I'll have to make myself a set before fall, and I'm thinking that a matching table runner with squirrels would be really great. I love squirrels.
I did more work on the garden bed around the deck this morning, and I'm headed out to hang my laundry as soon as I finish this post. Other than that, the big job today is just cleaning up the livingroom a bit. It's a bit of a mess because Ben was gone all this week, and I live like a 15 year old boy when he's away. But he's home now (YAY!), so I'll get things pretty and relaxing in time for the weekend. Maybe I'll make some pasta salad as a treat for him later. There's a really yummy looking healthy recipe from Ellie Krieger in my latest Food Network Magazine.
Guess I'd better get on with my day, so I can pretend to be a lady of leisure later on and knit while Ben does pizza night! Have I mentioned before that I love Pizza Night? :D

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Extreme Sheep LED Art

Crazy! But it really made me smile.

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

But it's a Self-Righteous sort of Sore

I have been exhausting myself with the yard/garden work this week. I didn't sleep very well last week, so I figured that if I worked extra hard outside, I'd be too tired to sleep poorly. It's working so far, and I'm getting quite a lot done.

Plus, I had the brillant idea to let the lawn get really long before I mowed it last time, so we'd get lots and lots of mulch to rake up. Well, it worked, but now I've got rake and pick up all that two acres worth of grass mulch! I'm grateful for all the grass clippings though, because they've really been helping me with starting the new lasagna beds.

I've pretty much decided that anywhere it's hard to mow and gets long and messy, I'm going to add a new lasagna garden bed. Eventually, that'll include all around the house, under the fences at the end of the driveway, all around the back deck, and around the clothesline. For now, I've done the one around the forsythia that I posted on Monday, and one along the back of the house/side of the deck. That one is eventually going to be very big, encompassing the brick lined herb bed and maybe stretching around the deck, in one big garden bed blob. But for now I started with the corner and worked my way out.

After raking and picking up grass clipping piles by hand, I've convinced myself that I definately need a grass catcher for the lawn mower! I hope Ben did enough raking this past weekend to come to the same conclusion. Though he did mention what a good workout it is. I can't argue, but it's so time consuming! I could be weeding or reading! hehehe.

Oh, the title of this post! Do you all ever get that glowing kind of self-righteous feeling when you work really hard? Like being prideful of the aches? I do that all the time. I have a suspicion that that's why people garden. Or workout. Or maybe I'm so adverse to physical activity that it's just me, and other people actually enjoy the activity, not the sanctimonious high afterward?

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Sunberry Plants




This year we're growing a new plant for our garden. We bought these Sunberry seeds from Seed Savers Exchange. I started them inside in the spring along with the peppers and tomatoes. I had started four of them, but the were much later to germinate than the others, and since I was being impatient, I put them out at the same time. Two of the four survived, which impresses me actually, because all six of the California Wonder pepper plants died a sad and lingering death. No, I don't torture plants intentionally, it just happens.

Anyway, the sunberries are doing particularly well with the hotter temperatures, and the fact that I weeded those beds, and mulched them well. They might also be responding to the Plant-Tone organic tomato fertilizer that I put on them.

I have my doubts about fruit from an annual plant, but the verdict so far is that they do grow well, they will produce a TON of berries the same summer they're planted, and they're actually very pretty plants. As for taste, I'll be sure to post again when they ripen, so you all can see them, and I'll report on whether we actually like to eat them or not.

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Monday, August 03, 2009

I've made my bed....


Now, what will I plant in it?

I couldn't get the lawn mower betweent the forsythia bushes anymore without messing up their mulch everytime, now that we have the nice big riding mower. So I decided that instead of always having to come back and re-mulch and neaten it all back up, I'd make the entire area around and between them into a flower bed.
So this morning I put together the start of a lasagna bed in the area. I started by soaking piles of newspaper and paper bags in the wheelbarrow, then laid them all out right on the grass, in the general shape I was going for. I laid the paper about 10-20 pages thick, on average. Mostly I just used the sections, either folded or opened out and doubled.
I piled grass clippings on top of the papers, all around. I guess I'll add manure and leaves when I get some, but for now, I have so many grass clippings, I could mulch the entire front yard, so I piled them on.
I don't really know what I'll plant here. I mostly just wanted to keep it neater, and not have to try to get between with the mower anymore. I thought that some daffodils would be nice in this area, since the forsythia bloom around the same time, and it would make a pretty little spring picture, but the rest of the year should have something blooming there too, I suppose. But it's got to be something that can handle being ignored, since I'm terrible at tending flowers. And probably something short, since the bushes are still very small, and I'd like to keep this area neater looking than my jungle-y zinnias turned out. Any thoughts?

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