Monday, July 15, 2019

Menu plan for the week of July 15

Hi friends.  We're down a man this week.  He's off in Tennessee doing home repair and yard work and sweating a lot and fending off bugs (they grow 'em big down there).  I'm taking advantage of MC's absence to make a few meals that he definitely doesn't like--things with potatoes in them.  I know!  Who doesn't like potatoes?  My kids are weird.

In MC's absence, Bubby learned to mow.
 One of the things with potatoes is pasties, which is giving us an opportunity to use that jar of turkey gravy that I've been asking you how I should use for several weeks.  Yay!  Still have the candy canes and evaporated milk, though.  Humph.

And our muffin streak continues.  This week it's AKD's turn to pick.  When I asked what kind of muffins he wants, he told me he wanted cupcakes.  So I'm giving him pretty-much-cupcakes muffins, also known as bakery style double chocolate muffins.  All they need to be cupcakes is frosting.

What's on your menu?  Here's what we're eating this week.

Supper:

  • Beef & potato casserole, green beans
  • Nachos, guacamole
  • Pasties, turkey gravy, broccoli/cauliflower/carrots
  • Fend for yourself
  • Hamburgers, buns, chips, jello, raw veggies
  • Hot dogs or brats, buns, pretzels, carrots
  • Grilled pork chops, grilled veggie, garlic toast

Other:

Thursday, July 11, 2019

What should I do first?

You guys!  My Cricut has arrived!  Ahhh!  I am so excited!

But here's the thing.  I don't know what to do first.  I have lots of projects that I want to work on, and that I have been working on, at least in the design phase, and I don't know which one should be the inaugural project on my new machine.  So I thought I'd ask you all for your opinion.  What do you think?

Here are some options, but feel free to give me other ideas to further complicate my choice :)

1.  Redoing this chicken sign.
I made a new sign out of pallet wood and it's sanded and ready to go.  I think I'm going to do vinyl instead of a stencil, but I'm not sure what finish to give the background.  Do I stain it dark and do the words in white and turquoise vinyl?  Or do I stain it dark, whitewash it, and do the words in gray and turquoise?  By the way, you can answer the finish question separately from the what project should I do first question.

2.  This chicken mandala.
This is seriously gorgeous.  And would take a seriously long time to weed (picking out all the little pieces of vinyl that I don't want to transfer to the finished project).  I love this, and I'm leaning toward this being my first project.  Except I don't know what to put it on.  Originally, when I designed it, I was thinking I'd put it on wood and hang it in the coop somewhere (by the way, I'm kind of running out of places to put wooden signs in the coop.  I guess we just need more chickens and a bigger coop. Or something like that).  But it would also look really nice on a tote bag or t-shirt, I think.

3. Putting one of these chicken mamas on my water bottle.
Or something else on my water bottle (any suggestions?).  The graphics wore off, and it's looking a little plain.

4. This wooden sign.
It'll be stenciled on stained wood.

5. This.
Source
I have two friends that I want to give this to, one as a reverse canvas (a reverse canvas is when you take apart a canvas and use the frame as a visible frame, reattaching the canvas in the rear) to celebrate her kitchen remodel, and another either on a mug or on a t-shirt.

6. This.
Source
I'm not sure where I would put it or to whom I would give it, but I need to put this saying on something.

7. A football mom t-shirt.
Source
Football season is coming up, you know.

8. Some other idea.

Let me know what you think! 

Also, you might not see me for a while.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Week 4 Garden Tour

As promised, I went out bright and early with a 100% charged camera/phone battery, and I've put together a garden update for you.  The problem with bright and early, though is that it's...well...bright.  I think you'll get the idea, though.

 I ended up with 11 lemon cucumber plants, and they're doing well in their pots so far.  I'm hoping to get enough cucumbers to make a batch of pickles from a recipe a friend sent me.  And yes, I know that lemon cucumbers are not ideal for pickling, but what else am I going to do with 11 plants-worth of lemon cucumbers?  No way are we going to be able to keep up with eating them fresh. 

 This is the mini pepper plant.  You can just see a few buds forming.  I've never had any luck with full sized bell peppers, but I did get quite a few jalapenos last year, so I'm hoping these mini peppers will do well, too.

The bean and pea patch is a jungle.  Blauhilde beans (a purple pole bean from Baker Creek) on the right, and sugar snap peas and a random green pole bean that I'm supposed to grow and give to a food bank on the left.  I am loving the purple vines of the Blauhilde beans.

Sugar snap peas and Asparagus bean on the right, and Kentucky Wonder pole beans on the left.  Some of the sugar snap peas are taller than me now, and some of the Kentucky Wonders have made it past the apex of the trellis.  Still no bean flowers, but the peas have flowers and pea pods, some of which are very close to harvestable.


 One of the peas.  Isn't it pretty?

One of the zinnias, amid the bean jungle.  The bud is forming.

 Patty pan squash is doing well.

 Zucchini

 Poor little watermelon plant trailing out of the garden bed to escape the bean jungle.  I should have planted this little guy in one of the radish spots, but the radishes weren't done yet, and I wanted the watermelon to have a trellis to climb.  Maybe next year I'll plant a bed of just watermelons to improve my chances.

Our tallest sunflower is about 2 feet tall.  And Koko decided to photobomb.

I've given up on the strawberry patch for this year.  It's overgrown with weeds, and the strawberries are pretty much done for the year anyway.  Between the weeds and the tiny green worms, I'm not sure what to do with this space next year--if I should try to dig up some of the plants in the fall and transplant them to another bed, or start over with new plants, or just keep them where they are and see what happens.  It'll probably depend on how much energy I have when the other garden beds are done producing for the year.  On the bright side, if I do decide to either start over or transplant, I can put some asparagus in with the strawberries this time.

You've already seen this picture of our farthest along grape tomatoes.  Today I noticed our first Big Beef tomato as well, but I couldn't get a good picture of it.  I've been pruning the tomatoes this year again, taking the suckers off as they form to hopefully direct more energy to the main plant and fruit production, but I missed a couple of suckers that are huge now, and I don't want to take those off, so I guess they get to stay and contribute to the tomato jungle.

I think that's it.  Did I miss anything? 

Until next time...happy gardening!

Monday, July 8, 2019

So exciting!

I was planning on giving y'all a garden update today, because the trend seems to be for me to do an update once every two weeks.  But when I went out yesterday to take pictures of everything, my camera, which is actually my phone, went kaput.  Not permanent kaput, but the sudden low battery so it has to shut off right now kind of kaput.

Here's one I took Wednesday--the grape tomatoes.  Yum!

Has this phenomenon happened to you?  Anytime my battery dips below 40% or so, I have to be prepared for sudden phone shut down at any moment.  It's a little frustrating.  But I haven't had time to explore whether it's possible and/or cost effective to replace the battery, and so I just deal with it.  And sometimes that means no pictures, and no garden update.

Tomorrow.  I promise.  I'll go out bright and early with a 100% battery.

But it's ok that you're not getting a garden update today, because

I BOUGHT A CRICUT!

Oh yes, it's Christmas in July for Scarlet :)  I ordered it last night, and it's supposed to be here next Monday!

Get ready, friends, to be bombarded with Cricut posts.  Here we go!

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Strawberry Lemonade Concentrate for Canning or Freezing

Our strawberry harvest this year is by far the best harvest we've had since we planted the strawberry patch a few years ago.  I think it's partly because the patch is well-established, and partly because I've done a better job protecting the berries from rodents and birds this year, and partly because of the weather.

This year, for the first time, I've been harvesting enough strawberries that we can't eat them all before they go bad.  That's why I decided to make them into strawberry lemonade concentrate.  Sure, I could freeze them, but I think my family will enjoy them more this way (and if you're like me, harvesting your own strawberries, you can freeze them until you get enough to make the strawberry lemonade.

This is a super simple recipe, with only 3 ingredients.  It tastes sweet and tart, just perfect to sip while sitting in the porch spring on a hot summer evening.  I canned my strawberry lemonade concentrate, because I have way more shelf space than I do freezer space, but if you don't want to can it, you could certainly freeze it.  Enjoy!

Strawberry Lemonade Concentrate
(to print this recipe, click here)


Ingredients (About 6 pints)
  • 6 c. strawberry puree (3-4 pounds strawberries)
  • 4 c. lemon juice (bottled is fine)
  • 6 c. granulated sugar
Instructions

  1. Wash, hull, and puree the strawberries in a blender or food processor, measuring to make 6 cups of strawberry puree.
  2. Add the strawberry puree, lemon juice, and sugar to a non-reactive pot and stir.
  3. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, to 190°F. Remove from heat, and skim any foam.
If canning
Ladle hot liquid into about 6 pint jars or 3 quart jars, leaving 1/4" head space. Process in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes.


If freezing
Allow to cool. Ladle into freezer containers and freeze.

To reconstitute

Add 3 jars water, sparkling water, or lemon-lime soda to one jar concentrate. Taste, and add more water or sugar if desired.
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Monday, July 1, 2019

Menu plan for the week of July 1

Hey.  Did y'all know it's July today?  Crazy, right?  It seems crazy both because the kids just got out of school, and because of the cooler-than-usual weather that eased us into the season.  But it is, in fact, July, regardless of our incredulity. 

Do you do anything fun for Independence Day?  We used to go camping every year, and for a while there we were making and wearing matching 4th of July shirts, but as the kiddos got older and busier, we fell out of that habit.  Generally now we stay closer to home and do a mix and fun and not-so-fun things outdoors, in not-matching shirts.  Now that I'm Cricut-obsessed, I can definitely see more matching t-shirts in our future.  And luckily, I have trained my children well, so that they know that sometimes they have to do things, like wear cheesy matching shirts, just to make the mama happy.

So here's this week's menu plan.  I am happy to report that I've kept up with my (loose) goal of making muffins each week, even though I haven't been telling you about it every week.  Last week it was lemon-chia friendship bread muffins, especially for AKD, and this week it will be chocolate chip graham muffins, which everybody loves, but are a particular favorite of Bubby.

Here you go:

Supper:

  • Spaghetti, green beans, garlic toast
  • Tacos
  • Hot dogs or brats, buns, chips, pudding raw veggies
  • Hamburgers, buns, chips, jello, raw veggies
  • Chicken skewers, salad, garlic toast, fresh fruit
  • Pie iron pizza
  • Fend for yourself


Other:

  • Rolls
  • Chocolate chip graham muffins
  • Cookies?  (I'm hoping to do something like this, but I have a feeling I won't get to it) (P.S. Can you believe what they're charging for these?  I don't blame them, though, because that is time consuming work!)
Did I ever show you these?  I've blocked out the specifics, but I think it took about 3 hours to decorate 2 dozen cookies. That's not counting the time it took to mix and chill and roll out and cut and bake and cool. Crazy time consuming, especially since they're meant to be eaten, and the kiddos could care less what they look like.
(By the way, any mini m&ms you see are courtesy of Bubby)

Friday, June 28, 2019

9 for 2019 June Update

It's that time again, friends: time for a 9 for 2019 update.

I feel like my updates aren't as exciting this year.  That's probably because I set half the amount of goals this year as I did last year, and I'm completing them at a comparable rate, which means more slowly.

I wonder what this means for next year.  Will I go with 20?  Or 10?  Or 0?  Time will tell.  I guess.  In the meantime, here's what happened this month:

In June I:


  • Planted sunflowers by the chicken coop--These will be multipurpose sunflowers.  They'll be pretty, provide shade, and provide food for the chickens.  The challenge will be keeping the girls from eating them before they get strong enough to withstand the chickens' pecking.

And from my extended, 19 for 2019 list, I:

  • Made a sugar scrub.  I love this stuff.  It's exfoliating, but it's also kind of like applying lotion in the shower, except the lotion stays instead of getting rinsed away.  I'm definitely going to keep sugar scrub in the shower during the winter (although I might use an oil that is liquid at room temperature).

I had already accomplished:

And I also had accomplished these from the longer 19 for 2019 list
  • Find a pretty bottle for my mouthwash 
  • Scheduled an appointment for Bubby with the orthodontist.


I still need to: 
  • Facts of life book--I had been working on this, but my enthusiasm fizzled, and I don't think there's any chance of my enthusiasm unfizzling anytime soon, what with the onset of summer break looming.  September, maybe.

Y'all.  I'm running out of goals.  Do you know what that means?  It means I've got no excuse not to work on that darn Facts of Life book. *Sigh*

Monday, June 24, 2019

Not-so-empty Garden Tour

You guessed it, friends.  No menu plan today (but click here for ideas).  Today I'm showing you what's growing in the garden.  It looks a little different than it did 2 weeks ago.

These are the lemon cucumbers.  They're called lemon cucumbers because they are yellow and shaped like lemons, not because they taste anything like lemons--they actually taste like regular cucumbers.  These seeds were packed for 2013 or 14, and I wasn't sure what the germination rate would be, so I planted 7 of them in this pot.  They hadn't come up after a couple of weeks, and the zucchinis and patty pan squashes had, so I decided to plant 12 more indoors where I could keep a better eye on them.  The very next morning, one was up, and the second came up later that afternoon.  Now there are five.  I'm not sure where I'm going to put all these plants if I get the same germination rate with the indoor seeds.

 Here are the sunflowers by the chicken coop.  Nine of them came up.  A couple of them are pretty big, like 5 inches tall, maybe?  The same three sugar snap peas that were up before are still there, but they are not growing as quickly as the sugar snap peas in the garden.  I read somewhere that sunflowers put out a toxic substance into the soil to retard the growth of other plants, so maybe that's what's happening.  I was thinking next year I should put corn here.  The chickens would like that.  We'll see if that happens.

 What a difference a couple of weeks make!   On the right, we have Blauhilde beans (a purple pole bean from Baker Creek), and on the left we have sugar snap peas and a random green pole bean that I'm supposed to grow and give to a food bank.  I love the purple stems and veins of the Blauhilde beans, and those sugar snap peas are huge!  Still no flowers yet, though.

 On the right, we have sugar snap peas and Asparagus bean, and on the left it's Kentucky Wonder pole beans.

 I am so impressed that my nasturtium seeds sprouted.  Apparently, they're difficult to germinate, and nicking them with a file helps.  I wasn't sure I was doing it right.  I guess I was.  I've never eaten flowers that I've grown myself, but that's the goal with these.  I was hoping to find a climbing nasturtium to plant by the chicken coop, but I wasn't able to find any locally.

So the orange arrows point to nasturtiums, pink are zinnias, yellow are marigold, and red is the watermelon.

 We've been enjoying a few strawberries each day for about a week.  This is, by far, the best strawberry harvest we've ever had.

 Unfortunately, strawberries are not the only thing we've been harvesting from the strawberry patch.  These little green caterpillars are everywhere.  Or they were.  They're getting harder to find as I pull more and more of them off, but every time I go out there I find some.

Our strawberry patch is organic, but maybe not for long.  If we do use a chemical pesticide, I want to make sure it's safe for bees, which might be a tall order.  Anyway, for now, I'm just picking them off by hand and feeding them to the chickens.  I don't know if the plants will have enough leaves left to store enough energy to come back up next year.  It would be disappointing if they don't return, but it would be ok.  That would give me a chance to both break the pest cycle, and move the strawberries to a more convenient location.

 Here are the radishes.  We've harvested four so far, and it's looking like we've got at least 6 more that will get to harvest size.  I don't know why some radishes form nice, plump, round roots, and others are skinny and long, even right next to each other, in (presumably) the same conditions.

 Zucchini.  And a couple of zinnias.  My zoodle freezing experiment was a success, so it'll be good to have lots of zucchini this year.

 Patty pan squash.  I'm really looking forward to eating these!

 Isn't this mini pepper plant just the cutest?

 Our grape tomato plant had flowers on it, which I pinched off, when I transplanted it.  Now it has more flowers, so hopefully we'll have fruit soon.  There is nothing like a sweet vine ripened grape tomato eaten fresh from the garden, warm from the sun.  So good!

 Here are another couple of nasturtiums.

Peonies.  Just because they're pretty.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Father's Day

I get marketing emails from Cricut, because I made an account for Cricut Design Space.  I found it amusing that in the month or so before Father's Day, this would show up in Cricut emails:


Yup, they were telling me that I should buy a Cricut, for $229, so I could make a gift for my dad (or my kids' dad), that would presumably cost much less, but would be personalized.  I mean, it's pretty much buying a gift for my dad (or husband) to buy myself a Cricut.  

I won't tell you I wasn't tempted.

But I resisted, displaying epic quantities of discipline and self-control.  

Anyway, I found it amusing that they were so artfully playing into my desire to own a Cricut.  Don't do it for yourself, they said, do it for your dad.  But here's what's even more funny (at least I think so).

The gift we gave my children's dad for Father's Day was actually a gift for me :)  We gave him a cordless reciprocating saw, which, in truth, he has wanted for ages.  But we finally decided to give it to him now so he can tear apart those infernal pallets for me, and much more easily than me going at them with a crowbar, a prybar, and a hammer.


Do I feel bad about the ulterior motive behind the gift?  No, I do not.  Not.at.all.  Next Father's Day, he's getting a Cricut.



Monday, June 17, 2019

Menu plan for the week of June 17

Hi friends, and welcome to the first menu plan post of summer!  So far our "summer" has consisted of school ending, and the boys heading off to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.  They're back, and they're hungry, so let's get right into the menu.

Supper:



Other:



Remember--if you're looking for more menu planning inspiration while my menu plan posts are a bit sporadic over the summer, check out my menu plan archives.

Friday, June 14, 2019

I made a sugar scrub

I finally gave up on the idealized version of myself making the Strawberry Cobb Salad that showed up in my menu plan for three weeks in a row.  That recipe is just too involved (oh. my. goodness.  It is not that complicated) to make when we don't have any guests to impress.  This decision, to give up on making the salad, left me with a lime to use up.

For years, I have been intending to make a sugar scrub.  It was in the running for my 18 for 2018 list, and actually made it to my expanded 19 for 2019 list.  So of course, when I suddenly had a lime to use up (ok, not all that sudden--it was three weeks in coming), my thoughts went immediately to DIY Coconut Lime Sugar Scrub.  All you do is mix coconut oil, sugar, and lime zest.


I'm going to admit right up front that I'm still not quite sure how one is supposed to use a sugar scrub.  But it smells amazing, and tastes even better, so if nothing else, I can have a little snack if I get hungry in the shower.  Or scrub the dry skin on my elbows.  Either, or.


Anyway, it was super easy to make and I feel all fancy even having sugar scrub.

Of course, the sugar scrub only used the zest of my lime, so I still had the juice and pulp, and I ended up making the Strawberry Cobb Salad balsamic dressing, too.  It is a really delicious dressing (and sugar-free).  Yay!

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

This week's Cricut brag post

Hi friends.  I think this might be my last Cricut post for a while.  I've made all the projects that I was feeling a burning desire to create (except one, but I need a break from that one), and I'm definitely needing a break from the library Cricut scene.  The technology specialist told me that he was hoping to get the Cricut set up in a permanent location, and that would definitely be a good idea.  I don't want to talk to the librarians (who recognize me as the Cricut lady now), transport the machine, set everything up, worry about making too much noise, break everything down, etc. If it was already in place, I would get to skip everything except the fun part--the cutting. Which is not to say that I will never use the library machine again--I just need to refrain for a while.

Also, summer.  My kids might want me to do things with them.  Or at least drive them places.

Anyway, here's what I made this week.

 This is white vinyl (Oracal 651) on a stained (Minwax Jacobean) pine board.  This is going to be part of our new gallery wall, when we get around to putting it up.  It's a sweet reminder of a running sorta-joke between AKD and me.

This is white vinyl (Oracal 651) in a 9" square Dollar Tree frame.  Either Hubby (if I can convince him to) or I will make a new frame out of pallet wood (which will require table saw use, so I'm hoping Hubby or one of the boys will agree, at least to ripping the boards for me), and this will also be going on our gallery wall.  I love how the wall color is visible through the frame.

I can't show you this project, because it's a gift for a friend and she hasn't seen it yet, but this is white vinyl (Oracal 651) on a stained (Minwax Jacobean) pallet (oak?) board.  I just love how it turned out, and I hope she does, too.  This is part of one of my favorite Bible verses, and I think one of hers, too.

And then, there's this project.
I love this project so much, but it continues to vex me.  This time the background paint stayed in place, and the letters also stayed for the most part, but the mod podge, which I used in an attempt to keep the background intact, peeled horribly.  It looks great from a distance, but up close and personal, it looks pretty ugly.  And that chicken--it ended up looking more like a goose!

This is the project from which I need a break.  I've decided that when I do pick it up again, I'm just going to cut and apply the vinyl instead of using a stencil.  I'm not sure yet how I'm going to prepare the board.  I still want a thin board with a white faux shiplap background with gray and blue letters.  AKD suggested using spray paint, so maybe I'll try that.  Or maybe Hubby can find some skinny plywood for me--the wood grain might hold the paint better than MDF.  Or maybe I'll decide that what I really want is a wood stain with white and blue letters.

I am also working on a t-shirt design for a friend, and another Bible verse stencil, but those are both now, and will remain, in the design stage, for a (long) while.  That, at least, I can do at home, with minimal human interaction.

So that's it, for now.

Monday, June 10, 2019

(mostly) Empty Garden Tour

Hi friends.  No menu plan today, but I do have an empty garden tour for you.  Have you noticed YouTubers and Bloggers doing empty home tours?  And then have you noticed some YouTubers and Bloggers doing weekly garden tours?  I thought I'd combine the two.  Because my garden is mostly empty.  And why not?  And also, I don't have a menu plan.

 Here are the eggs that were in the nest box when I went out to photograph.  I think that middle one is from Indigo, which is great news.  After she was sick, she went 21 days without laying, then another 9 before laying this one.  It's an improving trend.

 Here's the sunflowers by the chicken coop (one of my 9 for 2019 goals).  And part of my finger.  It was bright out, and I couldn't see.  I also planted some sugar snap peas here, and three of them came up.

 On the right, we have Blauhilde beans (a purple pole bean from Baker Creek), and on the left we have sugar snap peas and a random green pole bean that I'm supposed to grow and give to a food bank.  I planted around 25 sugar snap pea seeds from 2 or 3 years ago, and 9 of them came up (and one of those plants has since died).  I filled in the blanks with new seeds, so hopefully we'll get a good amount of sugar snap peas this year.

 On the right, we have sugar snap peas and Asparagus bean, so named because the pods are long and skinny--the package says they're best picked when less than 18 inches long.  Eighteen inches!  And on the left it's Kentucky Wonder pole beans.

You may have noticed that I planted a lot of beans.  Or maybe not, since nothing's happening with them yet.  I'm crossing my fingers that they'll produce well and I'll be able to can some this year.  Planting a green bean tee pee was on my list of 19 goals for 2019--it's not a tee pee, but it is green pole beans, so I'm calling that one accomplished.

 Ah, and here we have actual food growing instead of just empty dirt--hooray for perennials in the garden!  We have lots of flowers and lots of set fruit on our strawberry plants.  I need to get our bird and rodent deterrent systems up and running soon (I've been seeing a rabbit in the garden almost every time I go out there--it squeezes through the 2x4" rectangles of the fence!)

 Here we have radishes.  I think they're supposed to be done by now--I planted them near the beginning of May--but they're not.

 Here's the zucchini.  I planted a couple of seeds leftover from a 3-4 year old packet, along with a couple of Black Beauty seeds.

 Here's the patty pan squash from Baker Creek.  The variety is Gelber Englischer Custard.  I am really looking forward to seeing these grow.

 And here is where I'm planting 4 Better Boy tomatoes, one Grape tomato, and a sweet mini-pepper plant.  I've given up on getting enough tomatoes to make canning worthwhile--now I'm just hoping for enough for salsa and BLTs.  I'm also going to be planting marigolds in this bed (but I need to do that when it's less hot out).

And here is where the watermelon goes.  Hope springs eternal!  Maybe this is the year we actually get to eat watermelon from our own garden.  There will be some zinnias in this region, too, and maybe more radishes once all the peas and beans grow up to shade them.

What are you growing this year?
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