Friday, 31 August 2012

Slow Living - August

I'll be joining up with Slow Living Essentials with this month's slow living post.  It's a very interesting series if anyone wants to come along for the ride.

 Nourish:  Make and bake as much as possible from scratch. Ditch overpackaged, overprocessed convenience foods and opt for 'real' food instead. Share favourite links/recipes/tips from the month here

I always try to make as much from scratch as possible.  This month, I have to say, I have not had the heart to bake bread at all.  I did some baking for our vacation, though, and a few muffins and granola bars, but mostly it has been about cooking from the garden.

  Prepare:Stockpile and preserve. Freeze extra meals or excess garden/market produce. Bottle/can, dehydrate or pickle foods to enjoy when they are not in season.

I am sharing the picture below, but you have to promise not to laugh.  I have been reading some of your lovely ladies who are managing to put up 30 cans of green beans in one day, or all of your crushed tomatoes for the year.  I salute you!  This is where I am at so far for the entire summer...
I have to say this is actually the most I have ever canned...well, at least the biggest variety.  I started out with a jar a day when the harvest was small.  This week, I have managed 16 jars.  And when I think about it, the picture above isn't actually accurate as we have already eaten some of it before I took this picture.  I still have lots of tomatoes growing to can, and the freezer has lots of berries in it that are waiting for me to make them into jam.  And, I am quite proud that it is all from my garden.  I had planned on putting up lots of green beans from the farmer's market, but it just didn't happen.

 Reduce:  Cut down on household waste by re-using, re-purposing and repairing. A ladder into a strawberry planter? A sheet into a dress? Share ideas and project links here, allowing others to be inspired.
Green: Start (or continue!) using homemade cleaners, body products and basic herbal remedies. The options are endless, the savings huge and the health benefits enormous.

I am putting these two together this month.  I am constantly trying to reduce clutter, reduce waste, reduce "stuff", and also constantly trying to green up our lives.  Nothing new to report here this month, except that I have joined a group of local women that have started a kind of perpetual yard sale over the internet where you can buy and sell gently used items.  I have continued with it this month and plan on using it in the fall as well to reduce more.  The less we buy new, the better, right?

Grow: plant/harvest. What's growing this month? What's being eaten from the garden? Herbs in a pot, sprouts on a windowsill or and entire fruit/vegetable garden -opt for what fits space and time constraints.  

I doesn't appear that I have been taking very many pictures of the harvest.  There are hardly any on my camera.  I must be overwhelmed with the sheer volume :)

Create:  To fill a need or feed the soul. Create for ourselves or for others. Create something as simple as a handmade gift tag or something as extravagant as a fine knit shawl. Share project details and any new skills learnt here.

Always a work in progress.  There has been knitting and sewing going on as usual, but mostly all works in progress that I have already shared, or given away without taking a picture.

Discover:   Feed the mind by reading texts relevant to current interests. Trawl libraries, second hand shops or local book shops to find titles that fill the need. Share titles/authors of what is being read this month.

On our vacation, we stopped into a book store and we each chose a book to start off our week.  I chose this book:  
You can't really click to look inside like the picture says, but if you follow the link you can.

I look forward to many projects from this book.

Enhance:  Community: Possibilities include supporting local growers & producers, help out at a local school/kindergarten, barter or foodswap, joining a playgroup or forming a walking or craft group.

I finally finished the scarf for the "Street Kids of Toronto" campaign.  I turned it in at the craft store this week to be turned in with the others.  I have shared the information throughout the past couple of months, but since the deadline is tomorrow, I don't figure you can still use it.

Enjoy:   Life! Embrace moments with friends and family. Marking the seasons, celebrations and new arrivals are all cause for enjoyment. Share a moment to be remembered from the month here.

Oh, so much to enjoy this month.  We celebrated a 13th birthday, a 15th wedding anniversary, had an outing with extended family, went on vacation, and most of all....the big secret...I was so very honoured to be asked to be a witness at my sister's wedding.  It was just her and her new husband.  Myself with my husband and kids, and the groom's brother with his family.  It was intimate.  It was amazing.  It was so very very hard to keep secret.  (I work with my brother and father, and brother in law and see them every day---and I had to keep it secret for 4 months).
My sister is married!  I would love to share pictures, seeing as how they are definitely the most stylish couple I know, but I forgot to ask permission.  Maybe that will be another post.

In the meantime, have a great month everybody.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Knitting and Canning

A two -part post today.

First up, Stash bash (sometimes known as using what I have to make what I need), and Fiber Arts Friday.

 I have had this ball of yarn (two of them actually) in my yarn stash for a little over two years.  It's wool, which I love, but it is scratchier than what I usually work with.  Which means I didn't want to use it for something worn right next to the skin.
Then I found this hat in this book.  It is lined with fleece, but I happen to have a lovely piece of flannel in my fabric stash that will do just the trick for lining this.

I mentioned yesterday that my current knitting project was being transferred to the "secret nightime knitting" category, so I needed a daytime (when the kids are around) knitting project to work on.  And, I happen to need a new winter hat since mine is all stretched out and yucky looking.  Perfect.
This is how far I got.  Why so little, you may ask?  I was canning...which leads us to part two:

Tomato juice and hot sauce.

I forgot to take a picture of yesterday's tomato harvest.  It was ridiculous.  Now that we are back from holidays, my neighbours and friends have stopped coming over to help themselves to tomatoes.  I guess it makes them feel awkward...must figure out a way to remedy that.  Anyways, I filled a huge basket to the point that I was worried the handles would break off coming into the house.  I froze a bag full of cherry tomatoes, and then I made a third batch of tomato juice.
 The background first.  My tomatoes are extremely juicy.  "My guy" at the farmer's market asked me if I would like him to start me a variety of heirloom tomatoes this year as a customer had bought several kinds and only wanted a few of each.  So of course I jumped all over that one.  I ordered 8 plum, 4 brandywine, and 8 "surprise me" -two cell packs with a mixed variety of things I could try.  The problem, you see, is he forgot to label anything when he planted them, so I didn't know exactly what I was getting by the time they got to me.  He did assure me that there were some plum tomatoes in the batch.  Well, turns out I have about 18 plants of really juicy tomatoes that all look alike...which is not helpful for any kind of sauces as they take hours to simmer down.  They are great for juice though.  Basically, I fill my biggest pot with chopped up tomatoes, squish them with my potato masher, and bring them to a boil.  Keep mashing and stirring until they have quite fallen apart.
 Put them through a food mill, put the juice back into the pot, and bring it back to the boil.  Meanwhile, sterilize your jars.  Add one tablespoon of bottled lemon juice and one teaspoon of course salt to each quart jar...
Ladle in your juice, and put them in the hot water bath for 15 minutes.  I looked on the internet for the time and found everything from 10 minutes to 45 minutes.  Because I am using heirloom tomatoes, I figure the acidity is still high enough to warrant the shorter cooking time.

This used maybe half my I made some hot sauce for the hubba...
 8 cups chopped tomatoes, 1 1/2 cups jalapenos/hot peppers, sliced in half (clearly I used more than 1 1/2 cups, but someone like his food hot!).  Peel, seeds, and all.
 Dump those in a pot with 2 tbsp pickling spices and 2 cups vinegar.  Mash them a bit, bring to a boil and cook about 15 minutes until everything is soft.  Pull out the peppers with a pair of tongs and set aside.  Put everything else through the food mill.  Put on your safety glasses for this next step.  Sounds ridiculous, I know, but just trust me on this will you?  Hot jalapeno juice in your eye is not going to be comfortable.  Lesson learned.  Now that your peppers are soft, it is easy peasy to get the seeds out.  I used a spoon to scoop out the "guts" of the jalapenos, and just squeezed the seeds out of the chili peppers.  Put the peppers in the blender/ food processor with a bit of the juice that came through the food mill and process until smooth.  Put that puree back in the pot with the rest of the juice from the food mill (discard all the peelings and spices) and 1 cup sugar and 1 tbsp canning salt.  Bring to boil and then reduce until the consistency of hot sauce (kind of like a thinner version of ketchup?).  This will take a long time if you have juicy tomatoes.  Those yellow ones in there are plum style so it helped a bit, but just be patient.  I'm told it is worth it.
Bottle it up in half pint jars and process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes.  My husband said it was "beyond awesome".  Quite a compliment coming from him as he loves his store bought hot sauces.  Hot, sweet, starts hot on the tongue and then goes down your throat.  That's what he told me anyways...I don't eat hot sauce.

Line up your jars, and admire your bounty!  I'll link this one up to Carnival of Home Preserving on Friday and barn hop on Monday.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Yarn last

I am finally joining back in with all the wonderful ladies on Yarn Along.  It has been a while.
 I'm knitting up some socks for stocking stuffers.  Just plain socks this time.  One pair for an Eagles fan, one pair for the sugar fanatic...I think they will remind him of chocolate swirl or heavenly hash.
Can you tell which part of the sock I always dread?  Yep, the picking up of stitches.  This method does have a bonus though...I knit them up fast enough that after the first one I didn't have to have the pattern with me since they are the same size, with the same yarn.  I'm hoping that will continue with the next step.  Plus, since the minions they are for were with me on the trip, I could pick up whichever sock was for the kid that wasn't right near me.  Mostly, I worked on S's socks in the truck (since he sits behind me) and I worked on N's sock while he was in the water.  Then I kind of gave up because they are at the point that they are clearly going to be socks, so they now have to be switched over to the "night time knitting" project when the kids are in bed.

Before our trip, the book store was having a sale on "classics" - 3 for $10.00.  There were 3 that I hadn't read, so I picked them up.  I usually try to get books from the library for the most part, but since I tend to read the classics a few times over, I thought they were worth it at that price.  I read Madame Bovary on the trip (and kept waiting for it to get better but it never really did).  I have about three pages to go in The Woman in White.  That one, I liked.  I don't want to give too much away in case any of you read it (which I recommend) but it has fraud, a "Secret", the theft of a fortune, manipulation, romance.  I enjoyed it immensely.

I'll be checking out every one else's project throughtout the day/week.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

A lovely week...

I had promised to share some pictures from our trip, so here is part one:
Ooooh, that water was cold some days!  But we went in every day (multiple times) none the less.
 Excuse me sir...I think you took my towel.  (His was soaked...I guess a mom can put up with a wet towel to keep her littles warmer)
We bought these inflatable rafts on sale before we left.  They were so much fun...
...especially after the guys flipped them upside down and used their arms instead of paddles.  And when N realized you could slide off it like a seal off an ice raft and climb back on again.  (Note: the boys can swim, but we insisted on life jackets because the lake got really deep right off the shore)
 S sure enjoyed his fishing.
He's actually the only person that caught anything.  One to eat and 11 to throw back in.
 We also enjoyed walking around Perth (Ontario) to look at all the great buildings.
This is about the cutest bakery I have ever seen.  Inside it is like an elf shop, with doors everywhere, and lots of different levels.  Also, the best cinnamon tea biscuit I have ever enjoyed.
 So so much history here.  There are so many stone store fronts.  The first stone house in Perth is still standing...built in 1820 I think the sign said.
 The top of city hall.
 Part of the firehall.  They used to hang the hoses out from the top windows to dry.
 Just plain beautiful...had to take a picture of those acorn finials!
 This house was built as a wedding gift for a new wife.  Can you just imagine.
Fiddleheads restaurant.  Also in this building (5 buildings put together actually) are a couple of stores, public bathrooms, a fountain with a seating area, and facilities for weddings.

This was our 4th trip to Perth since we have been married.  We just can't get enough of the place.

So, that was my week.  How was yours?

Sunday, 26 August 2012

I'm back...

We returned (last night) from a wonderful vacation in Perth, Ontario.  We enjoyed a full week of swimming, floating in little boats, fishing, wandering, and a wedding (more on that in a later post).  There was no cell phone service.  There was no internet connection.  There was water, sun, reading, yahtzee, card playing, board games, knitting, walking, and family time.

While I was away, I asked family, friends, and neighbours to please help themselves from the garden.  I asked them to take whatever was ripe, whatever looked good to them.  That way, at least somebody could enjoy the fruits of my labour.

Last night, after unpacking the truck, I went out to the garden to see what was left.  Oh my!  I know my brother came to get some produce.  My neighbour assures me that he came over every day to get tomatoes. He also gave some away to other neighbours as they were walking by.  This, by the way, is just the "big stuff".  This morning I collected a basket of blackberries (the rest of which I am donating to the birds), a basket of green beans (some of which were actually a little too far gone), a basket of jalapenos, and lots of borage and chamomile.

So, this morning, I did some canning:
3 jars of jalapenos, 3 jars of jalapeno dills, and one jar of garlic dill chunks.

I froze the blackberries (to be turned into jam at a later date).  I blanched and froze the green beans (to be added to dinner at some point...I have yet to break out the pressure canner, but I just can't justify taking it out for one jar at a time).  I froze a large bag of yellow plum tomatoes, with both ends cut off for easy peel removal when they thaw.  The red tomatoes are currently cooking down in a pot for dinner tonight.  And the eggplant is patiently waiting to be used up with the tomatoes.  We are going to try eggplant parmesan for the first time. I might also try out the "string dried eggplant" page of my preserving book, if I have enough left over (and I am pretty sure I will).  I will share that in a separate post if I end up doing it.

Oh, and sadly...that watermelon in the picture....I thought it was supposed to be a little round one.  It wasn't ripe.  Heartbreaking, as it was pretty much the only one I thought I would be able to eat.  Turns out it is supposed to be a regular one.  On the up side...I did see another one just starting.  If I pamper it, and keep it covered in the next couple of weeks, I just might get a second chance.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

15 years

(a picture of a picture)

It's 15 years today since we got married...
We met when we were 17.  Dated in that last year of highschool.  Went off to the same university for 4 years.  Got married after that (I was 22.  He, being a whole 6 months older than I, was 23).  Moved 4 or 5 times by the time N was born.  We have, quite literally grown up together (17 is, after all, not quite grown up).  And what surprises most people is that we work together too...I mean outside of the home.  We work for the same company.  I don't know why that shocks people, but it does.  He makes me laugh...every day.  That, I truly believe, is the key.  The boys were laughing at us the other night because I was trying to explain something and just moved my hands (I definitely talk with my hands) and he knew exactly what I meant without even having to use words.  They thought that was funny...and he pointed out that after 15 years (20 really) you just know what the other person means.  He knows my favourite word in the English language (yes, I have a favourite word - actually I have 2.  One regular, and one "bookish").  He puts my favourite chocolate bar in my stocking.  He thinks I am the best cook.  He accepts my sock fettish.  He has, on occasion, even supported it.
15 years is pretty sweet.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Eat what you Grow / Grow what you eat - August

Oh my goodness, it is the 15th and I almost forgot to post my Eat what you Grow/Grow what you Eat post!

For those of you who are new to this challenge, I have posted about it here - the introductionhere - the set uphere - one month in, and here - two months in.

Here is the list of what I have been eating from my garden:

16-zucchini, tomatoes and potatoes
17 - leftover zucchini, tomatoes and potatoes (I will try to remember to take better notes next month so I can  share with you how I used it...I really don't remember a whole month back)
18 - strawberry rhubarb preserves  that a made a little while back (this was supposed to be for the winter but we ran out of jam, and quite frankly, it is just too delicious to wait that long) potatoes, a few blackberries, cucumbers, and beans
19 - lettuce, zucchini in chocolate zucchini bread
20 - cucumber, lettuce, green beans that I brought to my sister's house (last month, I unexpectedly was at my mom's house and missed a day of eating from my garden.  I wanted to make sure that didn't happen again this month, so when I went to my sister's apartment for a visit, I brought along a basket of our garden goodies to share - and of course we made short work of it)

21 - kale chips that my sister showed me how to make and zucchini bread
22 - green tomato salad - sister introduced me to this.
23 - cherry tomatoes, cucumber, potatoes, green beans
24 - zucchini coleslaw, green tomato salad, and tossed greens salad
25 - spaghetti (which means lots of fresh and dried herbs) and raspberry juice floats
26 - potatoes, tomatoes on toast, cucumbers, arugula and sorrel on burgers and the very first lemon boy tomato

27 - chard, strawberry/rhubarb preserves, cucumbers and beans
28 - currant sorbet (made the same way as the raspberry sorbet over here)

29 - tomatoes, the first cabbage in coleslaw, blackberries
30 - tomatoes, homefried potatoes, blackberries, strawberry/rhubarb preserves on waffles (I guess we had breakfast for dinner that night)
31 - lettuce, tomatoes on tacos and last year's salsa

1 - salsa (still from last year) and lettuce - I'm guessing that was nachos???
2 - tomato sandwiches and cabbage coleslaw
3 - blackberries - lots and lots of blackberries
4 - currant/ wild blackberry jam - I was making some for the winter and there was a little left over that just couldn't be squeezed into a jar, so I ate it.  I ate it all.  On toast.
I actually grow both "wild" (transplanted to my yard) and domestic blackberries at home.  I have to say, I like the wild ones better myself, because they just have that kind of deep, rich taste, but I do like just how prolific the domestic ones are.  I have 6 domestic plants and I have probably picked near 20 pounds so far.
5 - tomato, lettuce, cucumber
6 - zucchini chips...these I liked.  A lot.  I think I probably ate 2 whole zucchinis this way.  However, I was the only one in my whole family who liked them at all.  So, this probably won't be a very common thing in my house, because I only will run the dehydrator when it is full, and let's face it - that's a lot of zucchini for one person.  I just sliced it, put it in a bowl with a little olive oil (a very little - about a tsp for 3 zucchini) and some course salt and layered it in the dehydrator.

7 - more zucchini chips, tomatoes, salsa and lettuce
8 - blackberries and cucumbers on our picnic, and strawberry rhubarb preserve in my oatmeal for supper (it was delicious, after a cold rainy day
9 - blackberries, cucumbers, tomatoes
10 - cucumbers, tomatoes, salsa
11 - cucumbers, relish (from last year - and that must have been N because I don't eat relish), blackberries, and cauliflower.
12 - tomatoes

13 - cabbage, chili peppers, salsa
14 - tomatoes and cabbage
15 - we will be having tomatoes with our dinner tonight...and's breakfast for dinner again.

And, a gratuitous harvest shot from the other day...
I have to say, this is the most abundant our garden has ever been.  Granted, I put more work into it this year than I ever have before.  Just saying.  I hardly have had to buy any produce at all, and we are  I am putting up plenty of food to eat through the winter.  Not all of our food mind you.  But that wasn't the challenge this year.  The challenge was to eat something I grew every day.  And I think I am on my way.  

I have about a dozen jars of pickles (cucumber) and some pickled beans, jalapenos, pizza sauce, hot sauce, jams, and tomato juice so far.  Plus I have zucchini, tomatoes and lots of berries in the freezer.  Oh, and lots of eggplant in the fridge that we haven't touched yet. 

So, how are you all coming along.  Does anyone have anything they want to share?  A recipe, a picture, a link? Don't be shy...just leave it in the comments box.

A day out

Last Thursday, the boys and I met up with two of their cousins and my SIL at a park/zoo/aviary.  These pictures have been on my camera since then and I just haven't had two seconds to post them.
 We started off in the aviary because it was raining and the aviary is indoors.
 There were all kinds of colourful birds, a display of eggs, giant tortoises, snakes, lizards.
I didn't take any pictures of the snakes.

We moved on to the "petting zoo" area, and the monkeys.  We fed the monkeys some cereal, which is hysterical to watch.  I didn't get any good pictures of the ducks, goats, monkeys, etc...just these two monkeys:
Fake frightened look...he was posing something fierce for these pictures.
 I have nothing to say about this one - if you knew this little guy, you would understand completely.  This is him in a nutshell...and I wouldn't have it any other way (well, most days, anyways).

Moving on to the Shakespearean village... these were my favourites:

There is a whole village of these houses, castles, churches, and shops surrounding a pond.
Incidentally, my SIL loved these lotus flowers that were in the pond...loved them a lot.

 They are quite pretty aren't they?  Especially all covered in rain drops.

Then we proceeded to the park portion where we had lunch, and the kids got to play to their hearts' content.  Because it was such an overcast, drizzly day, we were one of about 4 families there so they had the place almost to themselves.  The trampolines were probably the biggest hits...
Or maybe the zip line was the favourite...
Either way, they had a blast.  If you are ever in southwestern Ontario and have a chance to visit
 Greenview Aviaries, I highly recommend it.