Monday, August 31, 2009

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

I got this fabulous recipe from For the Love of Cooking. I love butter. This recipe did not use any butter. Instead, it calls for vegetable oil. I don't know about anyone else, but I love the look of a stick of butter in a recipe much more than pouring oil into it. I was a bit nervous about the outcome. The recipe also uses yogurt, which I never have used in baking before. How completely wonderful.

Here's the recipe:

1 3/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup of vegetable oil
1/2 cup of vanilla yogurt (I used low fat)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large, very ripe bananas
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a muffin tray with cooking spray. In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, white sugar and brown sugar until well combined. In another bowl, mix the egg, oil, yogurt, vanilla and mushed bananas until mixed thoroughly. Slowly combine the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients without over mixing. Add the chocolate chips and fold them into the batter. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until golden brown and a tester inserted into the muffin comes out clean. Cool on a rack then serve with butter. Enjoy!

I used the skeleton muffin tins I had bought for my son's pirate-themed birthday party. Then I added extra chocolate chips on the "faces" of the muffins. The kids absolutely loved them. Eli ate two and Odin had one. These muffins are about the size of one and a half regular-sized muffins. These were dense, flavorful and just simply yummy. Thanks, Pam, for posting this wonderful recipe on your site!

Making Beef Salami

I had originally discovered the potential wonders of homemade salami when I visited Tammy's website. I had every intention of making her salami, but in searching for Morton's Tenderquick, I found a recipe on the Morton's site. I also found out that Morton's does not sell Tenderquick anywhere near me...not in a 50 mile radius. So, I had to order it online. The 2lb bag was $4.49. Not too bad. However, the shipping was ridiculous...$9 in shipping and $2 in handling. *sigh*

I only used 3 tsp... not sure how much meat curing I'll do. I had a hard time finding the liquid smoke, but it's only because I had no idea what it was or where to find it. It was near the gravy. I suppose that makes sense. It was only a couple of bucks at Market Basket. When I began, the husband was confused. I'm sure he heard me, but he kept saying, "WHAT are you making?"

I had to finally walk away from him.
I mixed all the ingredients together:
1 pound of ground beef
1 teaspoon Morton® Table Salt
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Few drops liquid smoke, if desired

Divide in half. Shape each half into slender rolls about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap in plastic or foil. Refrigerate overnight. Unwrap.Bake on broiler pan at 325 degrees F until a meat thermometer inserted in the center of a roll reads 160 degrees F, 50 to 60 minutes. Store wrapped in refrigerator. Use within 3 to 5 days or freeze for later use.

I didn't divide it in half, I just made it longer. And I forgot to use a broiler pan...I used a baking sheet. It was a little greasy, but I blotted and squeezed - gently - in a clean dish towel.
I sliced the salami and put it on my salad. I didn't make an antipasto, as I had planned. It was just a simple salad.
I was expecting a salami taste. It didn't have that at all. It was good, but I kept expecting a Genoa taste and it wasn't happening.

The kids didn't like it. They made faces. I was surprised that it did have a salami look to it, sort of. And the outter "shell" was hard like salami. If anything, it was an interesting process. I doubt I'll make it again. I do want to try to make traditional salami in a beef casing, hung to cure for weeks. I just have to figure out where I'll hang pounds and pounds of meat...

I also want to try the Morton's recipe for Canadian Bacon. There's nothing better than bacon...Canadian or not. Plus, I have almost 2lbs of curing salt left...mmmm, sodium nitrate. yum.

Menu Planning Monday

I've menu planned for the entire month...we'll see how that goes.

Here's what's going on for this week:

Sunday: Breakfast - pancakes, bacon and orange slices
Lunch - antipasto salad with homemade salami
Dinner - Steak, mashed potatoes, broccoli

Monday: Breakfast - banana choc. chip muffins
Lunch - grilled cheese w/tomato soup
Dinner - Pork chops, homemade applesauce, rice and green beans

Tuesday: Breakfast - toast and cantaloupe
Lunch - homemade chicken tenders, avocado and tomato
Dinner - Zucchini Parmesean and salad

Wednesday: Breakfast - pancakes and strawberries
Lunch - homemade mac and cheese
Dinner - honey soy chicken wingettes, sticky rice, stir-fried veggies

Thursday: Breakfast - oatmeal and cherries
Lunch - chicken salad sandwiches, carrot sticks and string cheese
Dinner - Sweet Potatoes, honey-wheat rolls, and leftovers

Friday: Breakfast - homemade waffles and mango
Lunch - honey-wheat rolls w/jam, fruit salad
Dinner - farmhouse chicken, sugarsnap peas, biscuits

I'm new at this, so I'll post recipes a little's been a hectic morning...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Destroying the Look of Joy

They come in droves. The little things your children do that you wish you could record. I sure do try. I have a digital camera with the video option. I have more pictures of the past 4 years than I do of my entire life. In trying not to be the mom who takes a million pictures of her first-born and then slowly loses the desire, or mind, to take ones of the children who follow, I have taken a ridiculous amount of each child. And the videos. I have videos of my children doing nothing. Seriously. They're just sitting there, looking back and forth from the camera to the television. I have video and corresponding photos of every holiday, birthday, event, trip, vacation and visit. They are all on my computer. I uploaded everything to a photo site to see how much it would cost to print them out. As it stood a month ago, the tally was $130. I've been on two mini vacations since.

This blog serves as my memory keeper of sorts. Perhaps when it is chock-full of humour - what I consider humour - I'll have it turned into a keepsake of sorts for my children. But, they are boys, will they even care to look back at that sort of thing?

Back to the little things children do and say. It's bath time. Eli and Odin are in the bath. I give them toothbrushes because they want them. They drink the bathwater anyway, so what's a little scrubbing the teeth going to hurt? I leave the bathroom for a moment. I can hear them giggling. I return and Eli charges out of the bathroom and emphatically says, "Momma, I washed my body all by myself (I'm smiling with encouragement) and then I put my toothbrush in the water (still smiling) in the toilet!!!" The smile is gone, my hand reaches up to the waving toothbrush and I huck it into the trash. The look on his face was priceless; like I just killed his dog. "But, momma, how am I going to brush my teeth in the morning?" I simply asked him if he would stick his face in the toilet and drink it. He giggled and said, "No, that's gross, momma." I gave him the "well, what do you think a toilet water soaked toothbrush is like" look. I don't think he quite understood because he looked into the trash as if he was going to retrieve it when I wasn't looking. I informed him that I'll get a new toothbrush for ugly, non-character one that does not light up or make sounds. That'll teach him.

Let's segue, or not...

I write what I'm thinking, feeling, etc. It's rarely researched, unless I Google something quickly while it comes to me and add it in just as fast. In reading my blogs, I have noticed that I start off on one topic and somehow move over to something seemingly unrelated. That's how I talk, too. I interrupt myself constantly. When I try to return to the previous topic, I forget what it was. Most people just shake their head and walk away. They probably should.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mommy, How Was Your Day?

I yell at my kids. I also make excuses for yelling at my kids. I didn't always yell. I was one of those moms who was praised and envied by others for my calm demeanor. I took classes in behavioral therapy for a job I once had. I worked as a behaviorist. I know all about positive and negative reinforcement, ignoring behavior, yadda, yadda, yadda. What I didn't know was that when you start potty-training your child, you can lose your mind. I lost mine. My first-born was ready, or so I thought, at 2. He showed interest. He could communicate effectively. He could remove his clothes and keep dry for more than an hour. He also peed on the floor, the walls, the rug. He pooped in his underwear...a lot. During one of his first experiences in a public restroom involved his curious little mind making him lick the public toilet. I screamed. I almost fainted, I think. It was really all a blur. Once he used the potty appropriately, I didn't understand why he would urinate all over the floor the next time. I had read about children being afraid of being separated from their poop and having an issue with the potty. He had no signs of that. All I could see was a frustration-inducing child who knew better. Once I started yelling, there was no turning back. It's completely ineffective. I know this. It didn't and doesn't happen daily. I never, ever, belittle my children. I do not name call or shout insults. I simply raise my voice to ridiculous levels. I'm not proud of this. I'm actually pretty embarrassed. It's easier to say this over the "interweb" than it would be to a mommy at a playgroup.
Then, he turned three. The back-talking started and tantrums. The books talk about the "terrible two's" and children throwing ridiculous tantrums. He never did that, until he turned three. Now, he is almost four and makes faces while I'm trying to talk to him. I don't believe in corporal punishment, but sometimes I'm thinking it's looking more and more appealing. I'm sure it'll be in style again at some point. There's a twenty-year cycle for things in fashion, right?
This brings us to my middle child. I had decided that I wouldn't even think about potty training until he was two-and-a-half. That was until he was eighteen-months-old and wanted to use the potty. I let him and he peed in it. Then, I let him take the reigns. Right after his 2nd birthday he took off his diaper and refused to wear one. He wanted Big Boy Underwear. He got his wish. He still has accidents, especially if he's engaged in something else....and in the house. He can go hours when we're out and about, but at home, it's like he pees every time he blinks. I believe our living room carpet feels like the sprinklers got tripped...they haven't been. It's pee. Amazingly enough, I don't yell at his potty accidents. I do yell when he dumps his grape juice on the couch or smooshes the baby's face with his hands. The baby is 2 months old...I am just not capable of calmly reacting when the children are jumping off the edge of the couch into the middle of it while the baby is resting peacefully on the Boppy... Or while they fight over the baby, physically, pulling on his limbs... Oh, I wish I was one of those calm moms. They take Valium, right? (Mommy's on Valium, so ineffectual...)
I'm working on the yelling. It's really not so easy to keep your cool. I found this blog in the New York Times. It's true...the topic of yelling at your kids isn't talked about all that often. Mommy's talk about how not to yell and alternative solutions. They scoff at those who yell. They all seem so calm, cool and collected at the playground and in the store. Meanwhile, I'm ripping my child across the playground, threatening toy removal and time-outs. Not really, but it seems that way, even if I'm just sitting there. I've thrown a toy or two across the room, yelling that it's going in the trash. I, too, always apologize for my erratic behavior. In making mistakes, and I sure make tons of them, I want to teach my children that they will be made, it's okay, and apologies - heartfelt ones - follow those mistakes. There isn't a lesson to be learned by my yelling at them to get out of the kitchen because they are underfoot and I've got hot food, utensils and pans all over the place. I'm working on it...

Fall/Winter Menu Planning 2009

Menu planning sounds a bit excessive. It sounds a little rigid and too organized. I'm doing it. I've planned out dinners on a weekly basis before, with each week differing from the last. This new way is partially in thanks to Laura from I'm an Organizing Junkie and in part to another mommy blogger...but I can't for the life of me remember her name. When and if I ever come across her blog again (I forgot to bookmark it), I'll be sure to post a link. I have planned out the entire season. I have not necessarily used foods that are seasonal. I have incorporated things I have frozen or canned, like zucchini, applesauce and jam. I had planned on having tomato sauce, but we know what late blight brought...
I have also decided to plan out all three meals and snacks. We are usually a family that figures out what we're eating moments before we consume it. There have been times where I have printed out a recipe, last minute and based on ingredients only, prepared it and by the time I am ready to toss it in the oven, I then notice the cooking time - 2 hours! That happened last week, and it turned out that I did have a dinner ready for the next day, but it didn't even taste that good! :(
I decided that any more than a month's planning would drive me crazy. So, I have planned out an entire month and will rotate the menu. I have incorporated some pricey favorites and some cheap and easy recipes.
Sidebar - I have almost eliminated cereal from our diet. While the fiber is good, sometimes, a box of cereal is easily $3 to $4. With four of us eating cereal, it goes fast. We usually had 4 or 5 boxes of cereal opened, for variety. Many times it would get thrown out because it just wouldn't get eaten.
I bought a waffle maker. I absolutely love it. It's made by VillaWare. The UNO Farmyard Waffler. I bought mine from Amazon for $29.95 and it is completely worth it. I have been buying waffles in a box for years now. And they're not that tasty, just convenient, I suppose. This waffle maker is fabulous, and it has the cutest waffle shapes ever. My kids love them. The recipe in the accompanying booklet produces delicious waffles. The husband loves them. He then recanted stories from his childhood about his mother's delicious waffles, until she opted for a whole wheat recipe that apparently ruined the waffle experience temporarily. As long as you follow the directions, the waffles come out of the maker as yummy as promised. This digression is apparent, but a bit relevant. We will be having waffles for breakfast. I can even sneak some whole wheat into them, and maybe some flax seed or wheat germ. We will be having waffles for snack and probably lunch and dinner. Not all the time, but it will save money...a lot of it. I'll post my menu plan once I can transfer it from Excel to Word. Grrr.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Eggplant and Zucchini Parmesan

Next summer, I'm hoping for this recipe to cost me very little. If planned out right, all that would need to be bought is the cheese and eggs. The rest will come from my garden or will already be in my pantry. If you are lucky enough to have a garden, a cow and some chickens...I want to be you. Seriously.

2 medium sized zucchini
1 eggplant
olive oil - keep the bottle handy, the breaded veggies soak it up fast
3 cloves garlic
1 cup crushed vegetable crackers (I can't remember what kind I use, I recycled the box - it's
green though, if that helps)
*instead of veggie crackers, you can use bread crumbs, other crackers, etc. Just add Italian
spices to give it a kicky flavor.

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
couple of eggs, maybe 3
pasta sauce ( I use Prego...I like the sweetness of it)
bag of grated Parmesan
bag of mozzarella ( could be shredded or slices...doesn't matter)
fresh basil
fresh oregano

1. Cut the zucchini and eggplant into rounds about 1/2 inch.

2. Put the zucchini in a bowl of water and put in the fridge. Walk away for at least 2 hours.

3. Salt the eggplant, place in colander. Put the colander over a bowl to catch the water.

Walk away for 2 hours.

You're back, yay!

4. Drain zucchini. Keep in the bowl. Add Eggplant to the bowl.

5. Beat the eggs and pour over the zucchini and eggplant. mix, shake or stir. Just make sure
the veggies get covered with the egg.

6. Put some oil in the pan (I use a wok, but use whatever you have), add the three cloves of
garlic. heat it on medium. (just leave the cloves in the oil for a blast of flavor. Yeah, I said,
"blast of flavor".)

7. Mix flour and crushed up crackers (should be very fine, like bread crumbs)

8. Coat egg-covered veggies in the cracker mix. (You can do this before you heat the oil and
have them set on a plate or you can do it while you fry...up to you.)

9. Fry the veggies to a golden brown...couple minutes on each side. Discard the garlic when the frying is done.
10. Place the veggies on a towel to absorb the grease. (I don't use paper towels, so I use clean
dish towels. Use old sheets for all I care...just sop up the grease)

11. Now it's time to layer. Spray a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray, or grease with olive oil. Go
ahead, use lard.

12. A layer of eggplant/zucchini first. Then toss on some Parmesan - just a sprinkle across the
layer of veggies. Layer on the mozzarella. I like it cheesy, to make the husband happy about
the lack of meat. Then spoon on some sauce. Depending upon how saucy you like it will
determine how much you use. I usually use 1/3 of the jar for each layer. Then, I put the rest
of the sauce in the fridge for something later on in the week. Throw on some fresh basil and
oregano. Repeat layers. After the 2nd and final layer of sauce, add some more mozzarella. I
usually go through a 1/2 bag of Parmesan and a bag, sometimes more, of mozzarella.
13. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until cheese is all melty and yummy looking.

14. Let cool a bit and dig in!

This dish freezes well. It can be frozen before you bake it or after. There's a lot of room for personal choice here.

I know he loves me because he lets me eat first...

A long time ago, a friend told me that she knew that her boyfriend really loved her because he let her eat first. Now, I took it as he waited for her to take a bite before he dug into his meal. However, that was a terribly wrong interpretation. They were borderline broke and he let her eat first and then he had whatever was left over. I laugh at this now because they were 20-something and the relationship ended less than a year later. However, as a parent, I find that I let my kids eat first all the time. Once I get a meal on the table, I set out the kids' plates. Then get whatever I apparently forgot to get: a drink, another utensil, a napkin, etc. By the time I have done this and begun to serve myself something else is being requested. The husband, and do I love him dearly, serves himself and happily sits and eats while I rush around. I do not have much of an issue with this, except now the children ask ME to help them out, even if the beloved husband is sitting with the children in his lap. I finally get to eat when the children are finishing up. This doesn't happen every day or at every meal, but it is an often enough occurrence for me to notice it. Sometimes I find that if I'm rushing around in the evening, and the husband is working late, I'll eat after the kids are off to bed...and it's usually cereal.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

$5 Dinner $250 giveaway!!!

Yup, that's right... $5 Dinners is hosting a fabulous $250 Grocery Store Gift Card Giveaway! Of course, I entered as many times as possible. Who couldn't benefit from $250?! In addition to remake my pantry, I need items to stock it with. I'd love to be able to take advantage of sale items in bulk amounts and not have the purchasing costs affect my weekly budget. So, if you want a chance at free groceries, enter, enter, enter!!!

Friday, August 21, 2009

August 22, 2009 Deals

Holy Cow! I think this is the best deal so far... Ann Taylor is offering a $20 off a full-priced purchase, in store. There isn't a minimum purchase price. If you can find something for $20 it's free. How sweet is that?! Thanks to the Deal Seeking Mom for letting us know about it. It's always great to get free stuff. I need some new v-neck t-shirts and Ann Taylor has some for $24. $4 for an Ann Taylor tee is such a great deal. Definitely worth making the 1/2 hour trip.

The new CVS flyer, sales beginning Sunday, August 23, has Playtex tampons on sale for $2.99. Combine that with the $1 off coupon from Smartsource and you're paying $1.99 for a box of tampons, 18ct or more.

Shaw's has pork tenderloin on sale for $1.79/lb. However, if you live near a DeMoulas Market Basket, pork is regularly that price. I bought a 7+ pounder. I also had the butcher there cut it into the slices I wanted. It's nice being able to do that.

I have been wondering whether getting a BJ's Wholesale Club membership would be worth it or not. I went and priced out a few things. Their pork tenderloin was $2.29/lb. Um, no thanks. A loaf of Pepperidge Farm 100% Whole Wheat bread was over $3. At WalMart it is $2.50. Again, no thanks. However, Bisquick is about $.90 per lb. at BJ's. Bisquick is $1.33/lb. at Market Basket. Aunt Jemima pancake mix is $.80 per lb. at BJ's and at Market Basket it costs $1 per lb. However, for my family, the cost of the membership, plus the gas it would cost to make the extra trip, would probably work out to be the same. Interestingly enough, BJ's used to allow a one-day pass for people to come and check out the prices and the store. The pass required you to pay the sales tax only. They don't do that anymore. You can get a pass, however, you have to pay 15% on whatever you buy. If you do have a BJ's membership and buy Aunt Jemima's pancake mix and/or syrup, Smartsource has a coupon for $1.50 off. Happy Shopping!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Blackberry Jamming

For years my father cut back the brush growing rampant in the backyard. One year, he let it slide a bit. By the end of July, there were blackberries everywhere. This is the first year I've decided to make jam. I wore long pants and a jacket despite the ninety-degree heat. I doused myself with mosquito repellent and headed in. My mom had picked all the berries in the front, so I needed to brave the bugs, tall grass and thorns. It was completely worth it. In my quest to cut my family's expenses, "free" jam is a big help. We eat jam on biscuits, English muffins, toast and in soy nut butter sandwiches (my kids are allergic to peanuts). A half pint of blackberry jam runs about $2.99 at Market Basket, the cheapest of the stores in my area. I grabbed my canning jars that I usually use for applesauce, some liquid pectin, a bag of sugar and the berries.Lucky for me, my two-year-old decided to help and was completely sated in mashing the berries. He's at the age where helping mommy cook trumps anything else going on. Can't say the same for my almost-four-year-old. I digress.
The recipe in the box was simple enough. Word of caution: the instructions specifically say that if you change the sugar amount (lessen or use a sugar substitute) the consistency of the jam will be affected. I had planned on adding less than the recommended amount, but didn't want to end up with syrup. We mashed the berries and ended up with 8 cups. Then, we added the sugar. 7 cups of sugar per 4 cups of crushed berries. Goodness gracious that's a lot of sugar. The whole 5lb bag was added to the 8 cups of berries. It almost nauseated me. Then it was off to boil. With the powdered pectin, the mixture is all boiled together. The liquid pectin requires you to add it after the sugar and berries have been boiled. I'm glad I read the directions instead of using an online recipe I had found that didn't specify powdered or liquid. That might have been tragic and instead of pictures of my son mashing, I would have posted a picture of me crying...
I didn't sieve out any of the seeds. I like seeds. I like a lot of seeds. Plus, I just wanted it done.

After bringing the mix to a "rolling boil" (I like that phrase), I added in the 2 liquid pectin pouches, stirred quickly and let it boil for another minute. Then I skimmed the froth off the top, which was a lot easier than I anticipated. It just sort of sat on top and slid off very easily. I ladled it into the jars, leaving a 1/4" to a 1/8" of room at the top. I put the lids and rings on the jars. Then I processed them for ten minutes in a pot. I don't own a canner. Maybe one day I'll buy one.

For years I have simply used a large pot. I pulled the jars out of the pot and let them cool. Now, they sit on my kitchen counter. I have no idea where I'm going to store all my canned goods. I will probably turn the cabinet that now holds all our summer bbq'ing supplies into a pantry cabinet of sorts. My fabulous husband will gladly move it from outside to the basement. He loves when I ask for his help.
Interestingly enough, while picking the beautiful berries, I noticed the detail of the bushes...and they looked very familiar to me. Then I remembered. They are the same plants I have been cutting down and pulling out of the ground in my yard. I have blackberry bushes! I was so excited to know that next year, hopefully, I will not have to leave my yard to gather berries for the winter.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Demise of the Tomato...

Late Blight on my tomato plants

Yesterday was the day I cut down my tomato plants. Such a sad day. All recommendations say to dig up and bag the plants. I haven't done that, yet. I did cut the plants down, though. I left a couple of hopefuls up...we'll see if they turn into something worth eating. One large tomato has started to turn...hopefully it will escape unscathed. I managed to salvage some more cherry tomatoes. My garden looks pretty bare now, but I think the space will give the pumpkins room to roam. After cutting down the tomatoes I noticed some holes in the ground. Could be the chipmunks. Could be the moles my husband found living under a box one day. Could be anything by this point.

Rotten tomatoes litter my garden floor. Tomorrow I'll head out to pick up the carnage and bag it appropriately. Maybe, just maybe, the large orange-ish tomato will be orange enough to pick and ripen on my kitchen counter. Crossing my fingers...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A little kitchen organization

I have taken the plunge and decided to organize my kitchen bit by bit. It's the little things that are getting a bit crazy, making the bigger things seem so much more hectic and out of control. I can give partial thanks to Erin, from $5dinners, for inspiring me to go out and buy a Lazy Susan. Whenever I think of a Lazy Susan I revert back to my childhood where the corner cabinet in our kitchen had one. And it was terrible and unorganized. It was also a dull mustard yellow. Now, you can buy Lazy Susan's, or simple turntables, and sometimes a carousel to appease every one's tastes. There are ones made from teak, marble, crystal, and stainless steel. They are double- or single-tiered. I really like the slate one from Stacks and Stacks...and if you are a Upromise member, you get 4% "back" on eligible purchases.

Here's my "snack" cabinet. I am in the process of renaming it my "baker's" cabinet. Eventually, I would like the majority of our snacks to be homemade. This was the state of the cabinet as of late. It's actually not too bad since I started baking cookies instead of buying them. I bought two bamboo stacking shelves by Mainstays. I made use of the glass canisters I had just sitting empty on my counter. I mean, they were just sitting there, so why not?
We bought a small and very old home. We have very little storage space. There is not a single closet on the main floor. I have very little cabinet space, too. The cabinet above was bought at Lowe's this past spring. I need more cabinets. I'd love about 6 more. I don't know if the husband will go for that though...
We also have very little counter space. My spices and such are strewn across the counter. So awful, but very little choice in the matter. Back to the Lazy Susan...I bought a double-tiered deal from Walmart. Bamboo, to match the shelves, even though they are nowhere near one another. I also hung the fire extinguisher that has been sitting there since last November. Some things just get pushed aside for more important matters, like getting pee out of the rug or coloring with the kids. I also decided to put the bread in the breadbox. Again, it was just sitting there, empty. I should really make use of things instead of storing stuff on top.

Ants. Sugar ants. They started out in the playroom. I treated for them. Then they started coming in from the back of the medicine cabinet in the bathroom. I treated for them. Now, they have made their way into my kitchen. I am treating for them now. Terminix came and treated last week, but they kept coming and now they have begun to appear in the bathroom again. It's really annoying and slightly disgusting. My house is clean, I swear. It's just cluttered and small. Very small. Very, very small. Have I mentioned how small it is? It's fine for what we need it for right now. Our children are small. We have no plans to move. I'm wondering how we'll fare with three teenage boys in it. I sweat with anxiety just thinking about it...
The dark ring in the middle is a bunch of sugar ants dining on what will hopefully cause their demise. If you are a member of PETA, I, respectfully, don't want to hear it.

Large and In Charge

Sometimes I think I do a heck of a job harvesting until I suddenly find the biggest veggies ever. I obviously didn't see these in the previous days. I discovered a pickling cuke and a zucchini that have been enjoying the suns rays for at least a few days. They are both taller than a tube of Chapstick. Goodness gracious. I'm not really sure what I'm going to do with the cucumber. It's probably too seedy for the relish I'm making tonight. I think I may just pickle it and have the world's biggest pickle. My kids will like it. I have a great recipe for refrigerator pickles, but it involves cutting the cuke. I'll have to do a little research for a good pickle recipe. I'll let you know how it comes out. I already shredded and froze the zucchini, along with the others I've had in my fridge. The zucchini doesn't look that large in the picture, but it was. Even my husband gasped.We can only consume so much zucchini in a week. I made the mistake of planting too many mounds. I'm a little thankful that two of the mounds didn't grow. I'll use the zucchini for zucchini parmesan, in a stir-fry or two and in zucchini bread. The boys love zucchini bread, even knowing that zucchini is in there. They just won't eat the actual vegetable. Maybe one day...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Oh! Tomatoes!

My first vegetable garden! I planned out the plot according to the almanac's guidelines for what vegetables are friendly with others and what are not. I drew out a picture on construction paper with cute little drawings of veggies and fruits. I wish I had saved it so I could scan it in...

I bought a truckload, literally, of cow post. I mulched some of the areas in hoping to keep in heat and curb weeds. I also used that black plastic stuff under the mulch. I did not want to have to weed all that often. We had a TON of rain and late blight took the four tomato plants I had. I was able to rescue about 30, or so, cherry tomatoes before everything was sucked into the evilness of the fungus. They started out so beautifully and were covered in green tomatoes, then one day they succumbed to the fungus. It just so happens we were on vacation for three days while our tomatoes were being overwrought. It figures, right? Something keeps eating my sugar snap peas and pepper plants. I managed to get 4 pea pods. Yes...4. It's probably the fat groundhog that likes to sunbathe on my stone steps. Yes, sunbathe. The rabbits and robins do, too. It's really funny to watch. On a much brighter note, I have bags of blanched zucchini in the freezer and 5 jars of refrigerator pickles. We have eaten zucchini like it's going out of style for the past couple of weeks. I have also given some to my parents and in-laws. My dad swears it's the best zucchini he's ever had. The basil flourished, to the liking of my 2-year-old. He loves to walk into the garden, grab a handful of basil and shove it into his little mouth. Considering the wonderful benefits of basil, I'm okay with it.

The pumpkins have taken over a third of the garden. I planted according to the directions on the seed packet, allowing 5ft in between rows. Next year, I'll plant the pumpkins in their own area in the front of the house. The carrots, cucumbers and broccoli never saw the light of day. Poor little guys. I was able to enjoy a bit of the lettuce I planted, before the pumpkin took over. This was my first garden. I have learned a lot in this experience. Vegetables are not as easy to grow as one may think. And they are not as hard, either. I have learned that I really like zucchini and that my kids don't. I learned that although they are cute, furry animals in my garden are not welcome at all, and the organic deterrent I sprinkled did not do a thing. I learned that I love watching my children walk around the garden, looking into the blossoms for pollinating bees. I love teaching them that food grows somewhere before it comes to our table, and that we can grow our own. I learned that I really like gardening. And that pumpkins need very little care and a LOT of room to grow. I will continue to enjoy the rest of the harvest my garden has to give and look forward to picking those pumpkins. Next year, my husband may have to build me an additional garden to accommodate my wants and needs.
Everything to the right of the tomato stakes and down in front is pumpkin.
If you look closely you can see a green pumpkin front and center.

One of the very few tomatoes....

Another Adventure!

Here I am again, but this time I am the mother of three beautiful boys! Silas arrived back in June. He's such a wonderful little man. He's also sleeping wonderfully through the night...well, until 5 a.m. anyway. In addition to bringing another child into the world, we've bought our first home. It's been a crazy adventure, but very rewarding...or at least that's what I have to tell myself when the basement floods or the ceiling above the bathroom begins pouring water or we can't get out the front door because the ice dams in the gutters are so heavy they block the door...The rewards are wonderful though. We live in the woods now, as opposed to the main street apartment we moved here from. My boys can run outside at 7 a.m. whenever they want. My potty-training two-year-old can pee outside as soon as he feels that he needs to go. I can wear my pj's in my garden!