Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas update

I really don't realize how much I rely on the internet until we don't have it anymore.  We went for about a week with really intermittent internet availabilty, and then finally none at all.  I do any new product research, blog reading, recipes, looking up phone numbers, etc. on the internet.  It's weird to search out my paper telephone book or hope I wrote down my favourite recipe, or try to remember the time of that meeting. 

Anyway, we're back online and faster than ever.  It's amazing how our service gets a free upgrade every time I call Telus.  Even if you don't need anything from them, call once in a while to see what you really should be getting for your money.  I'll bet our speed was supposed to be increased years ago, but they didn't do it until I had a problem. 

We continue to be busy over here preparing for Christmas.  I think most of my presents are made, but there are always a few that get held over until the last minute.  I'd like to finish those this week.

I made the cutest lunch bag ever for my neice this week (see it over here at homemade by ev).  I can't show you some of the other things, but it's been fun.  Now I've got to head over to the post office and send a few things away or no one is getting my work for Christmas.  I'm thankful for a few January birthdays in our house because all of the unfinished presents get given then.  Keep that in mind when planning your family!

This weekend is our community league's 2nd Annual Winterfest celebration.  I'm hoping for a bit of fresh snow for the outdoor activities that I've helped arrange, but it will be fun even without. 

I'll be spending the whole day at the hall on Saturday crafting with people, eating, carolling and having fun.  Consider dropping by if you've got time and get in the Christmas spirit!

Also, if you're in Edmonton, the First Baptist Church Choir Concert is at 7:30 pm tonight (109 Street, just south of Jasper Ave).  It's always a beautiful evening of music, with strings, pipe organ, piano and about 40 voices.  Besides being in the regular choir, I'm singing a song with the girls and three friends.  It was a nice gesture for the choir director to include kids in the concert this year (she likes to keep everything pretty professional), but she invited the "choir babies" to sing.  Four of the five young girls were with the choir through our pregancies and breastfeeding days and now they are old enough to sing beautifully.   Come out and here us!

Friday, November 25, 2011


Although we are all thinking of and planning Christmas presents, none of our latest crafts have been for Christmas so I can still share them here. 

Yesterday was our last day of Zumba.  The community league offered 10 sessions over 10 weeks, and Laura, Beth and I learned to dance and had fun with our 68-year-old instructor.  Her energy was inspirational, for sure, and I thanked her for her patience with us by making this necklace for her. 

We'll be hiring her for another session in the spring, but until then a small group of us will be exercising to videos.  I need "buddies" to motivate me to keep up.  Together, we've exercised at least twice a week and we don't want to lose the momentum.  I still have a Spa Lady membership, but I've only gone twice this fall because we have found other things to do.  The late snow this year was great for outdoor exercise.  That season is over for now though. 

And today Beth and I discovered how inspiring a day off of school and an hour or two in a fabric store can be.

After a session of interviews with her teachers (who were all terribly impressed with her brilliance!), Beth designed and made her first article of clothing today - a $2 t-shirt.   Sometimes sewing doesn't pay, but this time it did. 

Only a 12 year old can wear horizontal stripes.

I found some beautiful fabrics for a bag for my older sister.  I had to say that kind of publicly to make sure I make it before I lose steam.  Someone keep me accountable!

And I saw some beautiful fabric for another bag that I promised a friend months ago. 

This is the bag that comes with the standard Scrabble game. 

Gorgeous, yes?  Well, no, but it works.  Ours does, but I managed to melt and burn a friend's bag this summer in a terrifying camping accident.  Sarcasm  is tough in print.  Try burning one of these bags sometime.  It does a very unsatisfying smolder without bursting into flame at any point.  I suppose that's a  good thing, but it still didn't leave a bag that you'd want to use anymore.  

I'll be sending this in the mail.  It's pretty, but I wouldn't recommend burning it either.  I suspect it might melt too.  It's pretty with a bit of shiny bling, so it still beats the old bag hands down. 

Now I just have to get it into the mail.  Hopefully that won't take a couple of months.  Anonymous reader, I'm hoping the subtle photography will make me accountable on this little task.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Gifts on my mind

I think it's a bit unfair that I expect other bloggers to blog every day.  Or every other day, at least.  I love to have new things to read.

I don't always have anything new to write though. 

I've been thinking about Christmas gifts a lot lately.  Last weekend I sat with Rosa at a table at a craft sale selling all sorts of things that we had made.  I had hoped that our first snow would make people think of Christmas, but it didn't.  People were still shopping for themselves.  The vendors seemed to buy the most stuff from each other.  I sold a few necklaces, and a few more on commission, and I spent just as much at the other booths.

We did sign up for one more craft sale though and I've been busy sewing up a few things for it.  I think people will be thinking of gifts by the time December comes. 

Because I try to make most of our gifts (and so do the girls), I've been seriously thinking about the presents I want to make.  Most involve the use of my sewing machine, but I've got a few other skills as well.

I have nothing to show you here because I've started a new blog just for my sale items.  A couple of people suggested that I hand out cards directing them to my blog and sell things from there.  I hope to have it all set up well before the next sale, but you can look at it now. 

         homemade by ev     (there's a new link at the top of my page too)

I've also been dreaming up ideas for the girls at Sew, Mama, Sew.   I rarely visit there during the year, but every November they do a daily gift list with tutorials.  If you haven't been there yet this November you can spend some time catching up.  It's great fun and has a ton of good, easy ideas.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

New toy

I don't mind having kitchen toys if I use them.  I thought my pasta maker might become one of those unused toys, but I've made lots of pasta with it.  Especially since I have yet to see gluten free lasagna on any store shelf. 

This current new toy cost more than I think I will use though, so I only bought one quarter of it.   Rosa and two other deer hunters will own the other three quarters.

I don't know though.  Today's little experiment was really exciting.  I know it's odd to get excited about squeezing raw meat and seasonings into pig intestines, but it was awesome.  And I don't aspire to normality.

I had defrosted some chicken for last night, but last night's supper went a little differently than planned.  Yvon had a meeting I'd forgotten about and, while I escorted one child to piano lessons, there was no one to cook supper at home.  Tuna from a can dumped into my pre-made salad sufficed and satisfied most food groups and hungry tummies in a rush. 

Anyway, the Power Fist box sat in our hallway for over a week taunting me.  "Try me, try me!" it whispered every day.  Fine.  Raw chicken that had to be used, casings in the fridge waiting for a bigger sausage-making day to happen, some pork fat waiting for the same.  It looked like I had everything I needed. 

Although I had borrowed the KitchenAid attachments to grind the fat and meat, I wanted to try it with my own tools if possible.  My ancient cast iron meat grinder worked just fine.  It's maybe coarser than the KitchenAid grinder, but I don't mind that. 

The last time we made sausages, we used the KitchenAid attachment which injected a lot of air in the casings and required two people with constant vigilance.  I can't say I enjoyed the stuffing part of the process.  However, the Power Fist didn't break one casing, I had only a couple of air bubbles to pop, and I did it easily by myself while twisting the links.  I thought maybe I'd have to wait until the kids came home to help, but it wasn't hard to manage.

Before I forget, here's the recipe I used.  You can do it yourself without putting it into casings.  It's a tasty mixture made into patties too.  I ended up with enough stuck in the sausage tube to have a bit for lunch.  

Rosemary Chicken Sausages

2 lbs chicken             (I used deboned thighs)
1/2 lb pork fat           (dirt cheap from your favourite butcher)
1/2 cup dried apples
3 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
1 tsp pepper
1/2 Tbsp salt          
1 Tbsp chopped dry rosemary
1 cup powdered skim milk
Bit of ice water (maybe 1/4 cup?)

Grind the meat and fat together.  Mix in the rest of the ingredients, except the water.  Re-grind the mixture.  Using your stand mixer or by hand, knead the whole mess together, adding water to make it a soft, stringy consistency.  Fry a small patty to see if you're happy with the seasonings.  I was.

Rinse the casing in cold water and gently feed it onto the sausage stuffer tube.  Tie a knot in the casing.  Load up the sausage press and slowly start to fill the casing.  The first one is where most of the air went, so I popped the first sausage with a sharp knife to let it escape.  Apparently a natural casing self-heals, so you aren't left with a hole-y sausage.  Keep going, holding back the casing so it doesn't feed too fast.  Knot the end, pop any holes and twist your links. 

I don't know if any of you will ever make sausage, but if you do and have questions, I can go into more detail one-on-one.  I know almost all of you on a phone-call basis. 

Next time I'll plan ahead and have some dried apricots to include like the original recipe included.  Or maybe cranberries would be good.  The sweetness of the apples is good, but there wasn't enough of it to really notice. 

Maybe I'll use the sausage stuffer more often.  For reference sake, it took about 1 1/2 hours to make it, although making more would not have added too much time.  A lot of the time was setting up and reading the manual, searching for a recipe, and cleaning up the tools after.  My next sausage venture will be 15 pounds of pork sausage with a friend.  I can't wait to do it again!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Processing blahs

I've still got apples in the basement going bad (I hate wasting food!) and tomatoes in bins and in the freezer that I'd prefer to be in jars. 

However, I'm feeling done.  I don't feel like boiling the big canner up again.  I think I'm just going to use them as they are and if some go bad, so be it.  I've got the processing blahs.

On the other hand, I'm hoping to try making sausage again tomorrow with a friend.  That's a totally different process though, and I'm excited to do that.  I now own 25% of a sausage stuffer, so I hope to get better at it and do it more often. It will probably get it's own post later.

When I was complaining to a friend about my lack of tomatoes this year...No, that's not quite right.  I was complaining that I had a lot of small tomatoes that would never fill 50 pints and that's what I figure we use in a year.    Anyway, the subject of cooking came up.  She couldn't imagine how I would use all those tomatoes. 

"What do you cook that uses so many tomatoes?" She asked.

"Umm,  chilli, spagahetti, stew... I don't know exactly.  I just know they get used and we like them."

I don't think well on my feet.  We don't eat that much chilli.  I just have clear visions of opening jar after jar of tomatoes over the winter and dumping them in "stuff".  What is that "stuff" though? 

This week I decided to get back to menu planning and dutifully wrote out my meals for the week before shopping.  It made shopping easier and I don't think about food all day wondering what I'm making each night.

Lasagna, taco salad with salsa, a lentil stew, chicken quesadillas (with salsa again) and hamburgers.  Hmmm, tomatoes with five of the meals.  Question answered.  I love to put tomatoes in everything.

I'm down to this bin (and the bottom is now visible) and one more like it.  They are ripening faster than I'd like this year, but they won't go to waste.  Instead of painfully peeling, boiling and processing them, I'm just using them fresh.  Clean them, stick them in the Magic Bullet and put in the fridge until I need them, saving some for fresh salsa, hamburgers and eggs.  I don't cook fancy schmancy stuff, so I don't mind the seeds and the peels aren't noticable to mean once whizzed in the Bullet.

On the other hand, I probably do have to do something more deliberate with those apples or just admit defeat and throw them out.  Last year the kids "went off" applesauce, but it seems to be a popular lunch choice again this year.  That means dragging out the processor.  Poo.  I just can't wrap my head around the idea of throwing them in the compost bin.  Life would be easier if I could.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

My "other" garden

So, this year I had access to part of a garden down the block from my house. 

Although I was late getting it in (while waiting for approval to use it), weeds took over while we went away on vacation, and it was tougher to keep up with it because it wasn't under my nose the way my own yard is, there were some successes with this plot.  For one thing, I had no bugs or pests at all the way I did at my own house. 

I grew corn!  The cobs were small, but every corn stalk produced one cob.  Other than watering it, the corn was super low maintenance, very tasty and we fed between 5 and 7 people from it five times and froze two meals.  Not spectacular maybe, but more than I've ever managed.  And eating corn half an hour after picking it is just the best.  Of all the veggies I grow, corn is the most effected by freshness.  As soon as you pick it, the sugars in the corn change and it's really quite noticable. 

The potatoes were crappy, but I was warned in advance that potatoes were grown there in the past and were very scabby.  I had a few seed potatoes given to me though, so I threw them in anyway.  They weren't all that scabby, but there were very few of them.  I think that a neighbourhood kid raided them once too, leaving a few potatoes laying on top of the soil. 

The leeks were planted really, really late.  An afterthought, really, but they weren't bad either.  Again, really low maintenance.  We ate a meal of peas as well. 

The star of the show were the rows of carrots.  I'm absolutely terrible at thinning carrots.  I think the weeds worked in my favour here. 

We couldn't really see the carrots among the weeds after our holiday, so the girls and I just pulled a lot until we could see what we were doing.  Once the row emerged, we hoed between the rows and kept hand-pulling the weeds within. 

It worked.  I harvested quite a few meals and they were larger than the carrots in my own garden. 

I didn't mean to make this an inventory of my freezer, but it does help me to remember what worked and what didn't.  I'll read this post again next year and know how that plot produced. 

The renter in the house is a lady with plans and ambition but less follow through than a garden requires.  That meant she planted a lot but weeded only once, had an awesome strawberry patch but never once picked them, planted tomatoes but again never picked any of them, and had some awesome cabbages, but just when they were at their peak and should have been picked, she allowed the slugs to totally eat them. 

And she never cut her small patch of lawn. 

I personally didn't care during the summer what she did with her area of the garden.  It was a pity that her stuff all was wasted, but it didn't effect my own area. 

But then the neighbour told me that she was recommending that the home owner get rid of the garden and plant grass.  She had picked the strawberries a few times and mowed the lawn every time it bothered her.  She figured it would be easier for the renter to mow than maintain a garden. 

But grass?  The rented doesn't cut grass as it is.  I gave the neighbour a meal of carrots and asked her to reconsider.  I can't see how there is anything to be gained by planting an unused lawn.  It won't be cut again, and just create more work.  I selflessly volunteered to garden the plot again (you caught that, right?) and I sure hope they don't plant grass.   With permission to garden there again, I can properly plan what to plant and make sure I start enough seed and get it all in a few weeks earlier.  We'll see what happens next spring.  I really liked the extra produce and the actually even liked the long farm-like rows. 

I think I'll write the renter a little note of thanks and slip it in her mailbox tomorrow and hope for the best.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Too little too late

 Unless I'm with close friends or with the hippies of the new millenium, I usually lay pretty low about the ladies in our yard. However, today they deserve a post of their own and my readership of 2 is likely sympathetic to the backyard chicken.

For the last few months, the ladies haven't been producing very well.  Usually one a day between the two of them.  That's not terrible, but for a family of five it still means a regular supply needs to be purchased from elsewhere.  We've been happily eating from a farming friend of Rosa's, but we always prefer our own.  Our ladies have freedom over the backyard, eating weeds and bugs and mice (if they are quick).  That makes for darker, tastier yolks and the eggs are really big as well.  Well over the extra-large egg standard.

In the spring I've keep them cooped to give my garden seedlings a chance to grow to a defensible size, but then they are out again.  I think the problem with the lack of eggs started in August.  Some days there was nothing.   Well, they are getting old.  Production is expected to decrease, right?  But it did seem weird. 

One day, in the prickly squash plants, I found an egg.  Who knew how old it was.  I floated it in water, comparing it to a fresh egg and it definitely floated differently.  Out it went. 

So, I fully expected to find a hoard of old eggs in the garden somewhere once I cleaned it out and the leaves died back.  Nothing.  The back garden is totally cleared and I found nothing. 

Yesterday, I heard quiet clucking in the unused sand box area.  Under a table (part of Alice's kitchen setup for mud cakes and dirt soup) I found this.  Clearly Alice has moved beyond dirt soup this summer.  She could have been making real, edible, scrambled eggs instead.

Seven eggs!  Two fresh, and five will be whacked with a shovel in the compost and immediately buried. 

Anyway, the title of the post is "Too little too late".  Due to age, low productivity, dwindling numbers, and an expected hard winter ahead, this is their last day with us.  They are moving to their retirement home in the country this afternoon and I hope they get along with their new friends.  It will certainly be warmer in a more heavily populated coop and they won't be judged for their lack of productivity.  I just hope their country cousins don't make fun of their city-slicker ways.   Will they recognize a hawk or a coyote?  Do they have the instict to run for cover? 

Good luck, Heeny Monteeny and Jambon!  We'll miss you around here, but I think you'll be happy.  And now we can be sloppy about gate latches.

Friday, October 14, 2011

On my toes

Birthdays do that to me.  Keep me on my toes. 

I knew Beth had a birthday party to go to tonight, but somehow that didn't translate in my mind to "That girl will need a present".  And it didn't occur to Beth either. 

However, I had a bit of time tonight to create this little book cover.  Quick and easy and it turned out great.  Phew.  Just a bit of panic, but all is well. 

I can't remember when I last bought a birthday present.  I hope kids aren't sick of my gifts yet or think we're incredibly cheap.  I'd have trouble thinking of a 13-year old gift anyway and there's not much worse than wandering a mall with no real sense of purpose.  Blech. 

Thanskgiving and a new venture

I've been remiss. A lot has been going on around here and I haven't been sharing.

My parents came up over the weekend and we had a really good time together. They came primarily for a wedding, but we saw them much more than the wedding couple did. We celebrated our 17th anniversary over the weekend too, and Mom and Dad took the kids to A&W for supper while Yvon and I had a little date night. That's a rare thing these days. Thank you!

This year we had Thanksgiving leftovers before we'd had our own meal.  Getting together with friends over food is always a good time and the kids always have fun too.  I think by that time Mom and Dad welcomed the break from our  noisy activity too.  They would have been more than welcome to come, but they volunteered to babysit our own turkey roasting in the oven. 

I haven't often prepared a whole Thanksgiving Dinner with all the fixin's, but it went off without a hitch. Oh, one hitch.  The cranberry sauce is still in my cupboard!  A small detail.  The table was so full that no one noticed until well after the dishes were done. 

In spite of the fact that Mom doesn't like to can, the pears were most definitely ripe while she was here and when everyone grabbed a knife or peeler, we had all 40 pounds peeled and done in no time. It would have taken me hours on my own. And as Mom and Dad were leaving, on Tuesday I had a big pot of tomatoes on the stove and apple juice juicing too. I still have more tomatoes to do, so I might even get close to my 50 pints worth of tomatoes this year. I have 23 quarts downstairs already.

Mom finished what she kept calling an "ugly quilt". It was meant for Dad, and although not very manly in color, I would definitely not call it ugly. Laura was happy to keep it for her bed. I actually really like it and it's what I would consider trying myself one day and be very proud of it too.

The girls and I have been busy with a little venture lately.

Since our trip to the US this summer, we've been twisting wire into fun shapes.

But what to do with all this jewelry? We're hoping to earn our supplies cost and maybe get a bit of Christmas spending money by selling some of it.

The girls are great at it and have some really nice ideas, so I do hope that some of it will sell.

The first sale is tonight. It's a fairly crafty audience though, so we may not make many sales yet. We're mostly gearing up for a Christmas sale at the community league in a month.

Mom gave me the idea of living a picture frame with velvet and hanging jewelry from it. I don't think this is exactly how she said to do it, but it works and looks great. 

Because one boy at this school had used my sandwich bags for most of last year with good results and interest from friends, I'm hoping that a few of these bags will sell. Any crafty person can sew these up in a jiffy (nothing I do is rocket science), but some people won't bother. And if they figure out how to make them theirselves and do it, that's great too. Fewer disposable ziplock bags in the school garbage cans and I think everyone wins.

I'll report later how the sale went. Now I have some carrots to dig up and leeks to dehydrate. That will leave only the swiss chard, cabbages, turnips and beets in the garden. Slowly, slowly it's all coming into the house.

Friday, September 30, 2011

A Peary Good Day

I tell you, I was so happy when I could see the bottom of the pear box.   I managed to can all 35 lbs of pears during the hours the kids were in school.  It helps that I can talk on the phone and continue working.  I also fit an hour break in, so I wasn't feeling that overworked. 

Imagine how productive I could have been without the Zumba-induced soreness that I'm suffering from! 

Our favourite pear products (besides eating the fresh pears) are plain canned with a simple syrup and a teaspoon of vanilla and vanilla pear jam.  I've got an aversion to pectin lately, so my jam is always more runny than jammy, but it tastes great.  I ran out of 250 ml jars after filling 7 with jam, so I filled one quart jar of runny jam to be used as a waffle sauce.  That will be a good start to one day this winter! 

I also tried a couple of new things today.  One was to add a bit of cinnamon, ginger and a handful of dried cranberries to the jars.  I just did 7 jars of that mixture in case we hated it.  One jar wasn't quite full so we were able to test it as dessert tonight.  More ginger next time, unless the taste intensifies while sitting in the pantry.  Otherwise it was good.

The other was to can crabapples.  We only get a few apples on our columnar trees, but it was a bit of an experiment.  I'm not sure how successful they are, but they are pretty.  I imagine a few on a plate with pork tenderloin. 

So, the pantry is getting pretty full.  It's not a pretty or organized pantry like many bloggers have, but I thought I'd show you how I store my canned goods.    With the exception of a few jars of sauerkraut, salsa, chutney and many pickles, it's all fruit and jams.  No tomatoes yet.  Ideally I would like a pint or two of tomatoes a week, but I won't get that this year.  Even with Rosa's donated tomatoes again. 

It's not the best pantry storage.  The shelves should be closer together so that I don't stack the jars (apparently you shouldn't do that), but it works for us.  And it's much easier to see things here than in my chest freezer.  I know there's meat in there somewhere, but everything reddish in color seems to be berries when I'm searching.  

Anyway, I proved to myself that I can process 35 lbs of pears in one school day, so I think I'll invest in one more box if the price is still right.  I paid only $.65/lb last week and it's our favourite canned fruit.  Last year 40 lbs wasn't enough, so I'll do 70 this year and feel free not to ration when April comes around.


I don't know how much a bushel is, but I think I have enough apples in my house to start measuring in bushels. 

We go through a lot of apples in our house.  I think most homes with kids do.  And the cheap (frugal, thrifty?) person within me cringes when I see apples selling for $1.29/lb while trees all over the city are dropping them to the ground where they remain unused. 

I picked a  few times with OFRE this year, but I don't really need them for apples.  It's still a great concept.  Pick from unused, unwanted trees and divide the spoils between the pickers, a charity and the tree owner.  However, I have a few friends with trees who have more than enough to satisfy my family, the school and a few friends to whom I deliver.  And I can't find enough time to pick any extra at the moment. 

Because I'm busy processing into foods that will store through the winter. 

This is one of my favourite gadgets.  I've seen them at garage sales and if you have an apple source, you really should pick on of these babies up. 

Even if for the sole reason that your kids think it's fun and will help you peel and core. 

In no time at all you go from a bag of apples, to a bowl of twirly apples ready for whatever you throw at them. 

Once they heat up in this format, it takes very little effort to turn it into applesauce with just a few squishes with a potato masher. 

Or with one slice through the apple, you get easy rings for dehydrating.  I used to dip them in lemon juice or citric acid, but I don't bother anymore.  My dried apples don't need to be white.

I'm filling the dehydrator twice a day until I get a few big bags of these.  The apples themselves are more tart for me to enjoy right now, but they taste great dried. 

And because these particular apples are hard and tart, they are good keepers.  Last year I kept them fresh until sometime in November.  They started to look a little wrinkly, but I liked the taste of them better at that time.  That means there really is no pressure to do anything with them at this point.

My pears, on the other hand, are perfect today.  I'm going to see how many of the 35 pounds I can can today.  With a dash of vanilla in each jar.  Lovely.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Hurry up and wait

It's not that I've got nothing to do, but waiting makes me restless.

Waiting for:
  • pears to ripen in their box (35 lbs of them in my living room)
  • tomatoes to ripen in their boxes or on the vines
  • beans to dry up a bit on the vines
  • carrots and beets to use as much sun and moisture as they can in the ground
  • corn to soak up more sun and moisture
  • leeks, kale and chard can just sit pretty for as long as they like
  • ditto for the few cabbages that survived
  • brussel sprouts to maybe do something

It feels like I should be canning.  I should be blanching and freezing.  It's September.  Isn't that harvest time? 

I could just pick and dig it all up now.  I could put the whole garden to rest.

But I don't want to waste the growing weather we've been getting. Still no frost on the horizon and temperatures in the mid-high teens for next week again.  Some things are just so late this year, it seems.  The sun was a little late this year.

What I do have ready to go is basil.  Rosa's basil again, because once again I shaded my basil too much.   Oh, how I'm thankful for Rosa's excess!   I didn't pair basil with tomatoes this year (I learned not to do that last year), but I planted it together with the parsley.   My herb circle.  The parley grew like mad.  The basil did not.  Could not.  Sigh...  Next year I'll plant it in a neat patch all together.   Tune in next year to see how that works. 

So, my next "putting up" project is pesto.  A quick job that hopefully I can do with the kid's help after school.   That will make me feel productive and less restless. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A miriad of distractions

The weather is gorgeous.  The annual Indian Summer that still comes as a surprise every year.  While I watch daily for the frost warnings and pray for additional heat to finish up my corn and dry my beans out a bit, we finally get some heat. 

I had a few things to celebrate.

  1. The fact that all three girls were in school.  For a full day.  No early outs.  No sickness.  No field trips that I had to chaperone.  (Does that count as only one thing?) 
  2. The heat.
  3. The fact that I'm finally feeling well enough to cut the grass and do more the bare minimum to survive.  This morning I had a bath just because I wanted one, rather than thinking the steam might clear my sinus, relieve my headache or needing to rest my eyes. 
  4. The heat. 

So, I thought I'd sit in the garden. The garden always looks better just after the lawn is cut.

I sat reading my book in the sun, sipping my coffee.  It was a lovely moment. 

The sun was shining through the flowers.  But I couldn't just read my book.  I had to look up.  It started with the wasp that wanted to test my coffee. 

 Then I watched the cabbage moths playing tag.  And a big fat bumblebee slowly buzzed past and explored the last of the blooms.   The longer I looked, the more flying things I noticed in the air.  It was fun to watch them, but I wasn't getting much reading done. 

And then I started to see the things that needed to be done in the garden and the defects in a fall garden.

The squash plants are all mildewy and the actual squash need a lot more time to grow to a reasonable size.  I did get lots of patapans and one....just one...acorn squash.

And when should I pick the artichokes?  Am I already too late? 

Obviously I was wandering around the garden by this point.  My coffee was on the ground by the chair and my book forgotten.   

My first plant of brussel sprouts opened wide instead of forming tight sprouts, but maybe this later plant will form properly.  If it has time. 

And my pole beans need to dry a bit on the vine, but they are looking lush and the beans themselves are not ready. 

I've always been terrible at relaxing in my own garden.  I do hope that I have more time to try again this week. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Lately I've been immersed in a lot of things. 

Apples from my in-laws farm and from OFRE,

which became juice and cider so far.  More apples should be ready this week, but I'm too sick to pick them (just a bad cold or flu, I never properly differentiate them).  They are large and perfect for easy peeling, drying and making applesauce.  I've still got lots of pie filling from last year. 

And now plums, from my in-laws again, and from friends.  So far I have the dehydrator full in a first attempt at drying them, and Laura and a friend made this awesome plum cake.  And I have nine pints of plum sauce that turned out quite well (after adjustments were made to sweeten it A LOT).   

I still have two bags of plums left.  I might try canning some in a light syrup like peaches and we'll see how that works.  I hate to see them go to waste, but the fruit flies are going a little nuts at the moment. 

What can I do with them? 

I'm also immersed in French at the moment.  Beth's homework has become work for Yvon and I.  I realize that many parents have to help their children with homework or with motivation their kids to do their work, but we've been lucky so far.  Suddenly we are drawn in to help. 

On the plus side, Beth is loving her school.  There was really only one day of frustrating confusion, and since then she's found that she understands most of the French if she doesn't let her mind drift.  I knew she was a smarty-pants and would be fine. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Produce of a different variety

A friend came over today to show me her produce.

Oh, how different than my slug-eaten vegetables.

Much larger than my tiny garlic, and mini onions that are mostly lost in the forest of greenery.

And my tomatoes that look more like cherry tomatoes than beef steaks.

I do like my carrots a lot, but these large ones would taste fabulous too. 

And her peas were so cute!  I took quite a few pictures of her cute little peas among the healthy greenery of my climbing beans.

And this lovely eggplant.  I totally love the leaves at the top. 

I wish my own produce were as healthy and large.

(BTW, her produce is going to be up for silent auction this weekend at the Westmount Community Garden.  It would look totally cute in a basket or bowl on a kitchen table)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Nouveau ecole

This morning was harder for me than kindergarten ever was, although the big girl was still just as calm and confident now as she was seven years ago. 

Maybe that makes it worse.  Or maybe it allows me to be the weak one. 

This morning, bikes and backs laden with all of the new school supplies, Beth and I rode to her new junior high.  There was too much stuff for her to take alone, plus I wanted to be there to make sure she knew where to go.  I didn't know where to go either, but I was still worried that all staff would speak to us only in French. 

I went to bed last night with French conversations going on in my head.  I was a bit nervous. 

"Bonjour.  Nous appellons Evelyn and Beth.  Je ne comprends pas Francais, mais Beth parle un ... picito, non,...un peau.  Ou est le ...Grade"

Obviously I don't speak French.  Beth doesn't either, but now she's immersed in a classroom of fluent 12 year olds.  I'm worried but she doesn't appear to be.  She flipped through her French conjugation book last night and said "I think I've got this figured out".  She takes the academic approach to getting by, and armed with her books and some quickly-made new friends, she'll be fine.  I hope and pray. 

We found her room with the help of a very English-speaking custodian (in fact, I heard no French at all in the hallways) and she piled her bags with all of the other bags at the back of the classroom.  It looked like they were about to head off on a two week camping trip.  So much stuff!  She found a seat and I had to leave her, without even a hug.  I was tempted to stand by the door to see if she was okay, if she would speak or be spoken to.  I did that when I first left her at daycare years ago, listening to see if she'd cry for me or be fine. 

She was always fine, and she'll be fine now too.  I'll just sit here today and worry.  I think that as her mom, that's my right. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Stuff from this week

I rarely take a big-picture photo of our back yard because there is little of beauty there.  However, this is a beautiful sunflower.  It's actually two plants growing mighty close to each other, but both are impressive in terms of the number of flowers on each plant. 

Usually I see little out of my kitchen window beyond the 15 foot above-ground pool.  And it's not pretty.  However, this year the girls all voted in favour of a firepit instead of the pool (we can't fit both).   For a few weeks we lived with just a tractor rim, but we've now covered the rim with loosely stacked bricks.  Much better!

One day the mound it sits on (which is completely level for the pool and made up of clay and sand) will maybe be bricked and look a bit more deliberate.  For the moment, the sand makes this a very safe firepit. 

And this was today's haul from the garden. 

It's all very late, but there's:  beans, peans, turnips, carrots, overgrown patapan, celery and parsley for drying. 

The celery is awesome this year.  Almost like grocery store celery, but it's starting to get slightly bitter.  I made up some soup packages today (onion, celery, carrots) and a big batch of cream of celery soup for the freezer.   A busy day, but it feels good to start getting it out of the garden and into the freezer.