Thursday, July 20, 2017

Right Now

Right now, I'm...

...looking around at the remnants of play (tumbling pillow forts, piles of Legos, tucked-in babies, books and magazines with various forms of page markers, lots and lots of paper crafts...) with a mixture of twitchy desire to clean up and mushy sentimentality because the summer is starting to draw to a close. It won't be long before my kiddos are back at school during the day and the house will sit for hours undisturbed...
...feeling relieved that today is the last day of swim lessons! My Littles are little fishes... but having to prep, load, drive, and wait through swim lessons every morning has really felt like a handicap in my ability to get things done! We haven't done a proper grocery store run in almost two weeks, y'all.
...eyeballing two five gallon buckets of Asian pears from my mom's that have all hit that perfect state of ripeness all at once. They need to be put up ASAP, but I'm proving to be quite a clumsy pear canner- yesterday I put up seven quarts without adding the acid necessary to keep them safe while sitting at room temperature. So today I'll have to open them all up, add the acid, and re-process them before I can start on the next batch. Plus, I'm the slowest pear peeler ever, so yeah. (I'm using this basic recipe right now)
...roasting all the tomatoes left out in the garden with heads of garlic and packing them in olive oil, because they're coming in pretty beat up due to the heat and bugs working against everything out there, and roasting hides a lot of ugly!
...loving the look of the freshly cut and baled hay field out all the front windows! That grass was waist-high and crazy thick, and our hay guy got 17 bales this time around!

Right now we're caught between the ramping down of summer activities and the ramping up of back-to-school prep, and somewhere in this in-between I'm trying to find that lazy summer vibe we've blown right past thus far.

Is it Thursday already?

Wishing all a little of that lazy summer vibe... happy Thursday!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Little Campers :: Movie Making Project

Our Little Campers meeting this week was all about silly, creative fun- movie making! We talked about scripts, costumes, props, the role of the actor and the role of the director, and then the kids paired up and brainstormed their plots and characters. Finally they each made their own little movie using tablet devices, and that ended up being good practice for sharing and patience, too!

Once each pair had completed their movie, we gathered and watched them together, then talked about different film genres and how some people prefer one type of movie over another, but that doesn't mean one type of movie is right or better (because our group gets a little wrapped up in comparing work sometimes). Art is in the eye of the beholder!

Henry and Spencer's Movie:

Audrey and Piper's Movie:

Their badges for this activity were handmade by Keri:

The boys got a little lost looking for a plot, and some of the girls' dialogue was hard to catch, but everyone was proud of their end product, and we had a lot of fun watching them pull it all together!

Last time: Wild Plants/Foraging

Coming up: Cooking!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Summer Activity, In Photos

 A little peek into what's been filling our daylight hours this summer: a little water, a little sun, some growing things, and lots and lots of Legos. We're enjoying it while it lasts- the first day of school is only 4 weeks away now!

Sunday, July 16, 2017


We're at it again... house project in the works (wiring for a new vent over the oven) and kid projects all around to keep them out from under foot. Happy (busy busy busy, messy messy messy) weekending!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Little Campers :: Wild Plants/Foraging Activity

Today we hit the field for our Little Campers foraging activity, humidity and heat index be damned! The first thing we talked about were plants that poison (we found pokeweed and several unidentified mushrooms), plants that had edible parts but should be left alone by kids (specifically bull nettle) followed by what to do if you're not sure what it is (answer: don't eat it), and lastly we moved on to the fun stuff: the edibles! We walked around the field and found lambs quarters, purslane, oxalis, greenbriar tips and spiderwart, then brought it all back into the air conditioning for a big salad to go with our lunch!

The kiddos got a brass acorn for their badge this round, found at the same local craft shop that provided the wood cutouts for our very first badges.

A lot of the information from our discussion today came from Plants That Poison: An Illustrated Guide for the American Southwest by Ervin M. Schmutz and Lucretia Breazeale Hamilton, Western Edible Wild Plants by H.D. Harrington, and my frequently referenced fav resource, Foraging Texas.

Please note: plants vary greatly from region to region, and there may be poisonous look-alikes in your area that are different from what I've referenced here. Always use caution when foraging for wild edibles, and make sure you know it's edible via your own research before eating what you find!

Up next: Movie Making!

Last time: First Aid Lesson

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Four Years

 Today is our four-year "housiversary." It's been four years since we closed on this place and started the ball rolling to make it our own (take a peek at the last look we took before we left our old house and a little glimpse of the move-in chaos those first few days at our new one).

However today marks the first anniversary in this house that felt peaceful and celebratory. We had such a struggle those first few years working against so much (property boundary issues, well issues, septic issues, neighbor issues, legal issues, renovation issues, mold issues, and the stress of watching the (now ours) front field go up for sale)... what a joy to actually celebrate this fourth year!

A couple flat iron steaks on the grill, some strawberry popcicles in sparkling wine (or ginger ale), and the opportunity to watch a distant thunder storm roll in from the back porch... what a relief it is to be able to focus on just living here now.

Four years down, the rest of our lives to go. Happy housiversary to us!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Coming In

Yesterday I visited my garden for the first time since the rain moved through (it's been a couple days), and aside from the weeds beginning to grow in the pathways and the copious amounts of squash bugs, stink bugs, and harlequin beetles on everything, I'm happy to say my plants are doing surprisingly well! In fact, I might need to plan on taking some pictures pre-'real' summer heat so I can remember what was where, what was doing well, and what I want to change next year!

Anyway once I got out there and started looking around, I realized pretty quickly things were getting out of hand. I had cherry tomatoes everywhere, a few of the larger varieties had tomatoes about to crack from all the rain, there were six eggplant ready to come in, and there were zucchini longer than my forearm. I had to make two trips to unload my harvest basket when I started bringing it all in.

Last night my counter top looked like this:

 this morning I made a plan, made a list, made a trip to the store to stock up on supplies, and then made a go at it.

First, we tackled the cucumbers and got most of them into a crock to ferment into sour garlic-dill pickles. To cater to our need for immediacy, we also put two quarts of refrigerator pickles up while we were at it. I'm guessing we had close to 7 or 8 pounds of cukes (but of course I didn't think to weigh anything before it was all said and done). While we had our fermentation stuff out, we also got a jar of banana peppers and a jar of sliced jalapenos going.

Next we chopped up all the eggplant and about half the squash and sauteed it together with a couple big onions in butter and olive oil until it was cooked down into sweet caramelized mush. I then divided it into two gallon-sized freezer bags, vacuum-sealed them, and put them on a cookie sheet in the freezer to freeze flat and await their chance to be a killer pasta sauce (with the help of a little heavy cream and Parmesan cheese).

From there we put the last four pounds of blackberries on with an embarrassing amount of sugar and a little lemon juice for good measure to bubble and reduce into jam, and while that was working we launched into the tomatoes. I decided for the sake of time just to peel them, half them, cram them in jars, and process them in their own juices. I got six quarts out of what was sitting on my windowsill. I've never canned tomatoes like that before, so I hope I made the right call. I'm hoping they'll be versatile enough in this way that they can be salsa or tomato sauce or soup or bloody marys or...

The last thing we tackled was our grocery bag full of Chinese red noodle beans. Oh my gosh these beans are my new favorite. They were so heavy with aphids when they first started growing I didn't think they'd make it, but wow have they pulled through! They're just the coolest ever. I would highly recommend them, and am totally keeping a place for them in all my future gardens. My kids think they look like alien fingers hanging down from their trellis. And they taste good. And they stay purple when you cook them.

Once everything was processed and cooled, we labeled and stacked our jarred hard work in our pantry, and that my friends is the best feeling! That and air conditioning. I have no idea how families in the past put up their summer harvests in open-air kitchens. Mad respect.

Oh I almost forgot- one more thing came in from the garden today...

 ...41 mini pumpkins! I've moaned and groaned about never successfully growing my own pumpkin vine multiple times I know, and now lo and behold a volunteer springs up in my garden pathway and produces those little things out the wazoo! I did some desperate research about these "ornamental" squash once I figured out this plant wasn't going to die, and everything I've found says they're just as good to eat as pie pumpkins, they're just more work because they're so small and seedy. Welp, they're as good as I'm going to get, so in they came today and we got to work on those, too!

 These little ladies were roasted whole, and on my counter top they still sit because I just plain ran out of energy. My plan is to peel them and put them through my food mill to rid them of their insane amount of seeds, then I'll freeze them in vacuum-sealed freezer bags in pie-appropriate amounts. That's my plan, anyway. I've been told my mom's grape vines and pear trees are loaded and ready right now, so a new wave of attention-demanding summer goodies may soon be upon us. Maybe I can tackle these pumpkins over coffee in the morning...?

Oh the joy of a summer garden! How I've missed it, how we're loving it! While helping, almost under his breath, Henry said, "Thanks for everything, garden!"

Thankful doesn't even begin to describe it.