Saturday, May 31, 2008

Garden Update

I spent part of yesterday afternoon weeding the garden. The only downside of free potting soil is that it has weeds in it. On the flip side I could never have purchased so much at one time, and weeding is good exercise.
It has been fun for me to see how the garden has changed over the weeks. Aside from the blog I am using the pictures for my garden journal. If you garden and do not have a journal, I highly recommend you start one. I use mine to record how long it took seeds to sprout, when I planted, when I first harvested. Everyone else may have a better memory than I do. It never fails that I cannot remember when I planted the previous years. It is also a nice record of your gardening adventures!

Here are the herbs again. The basil has really grown this week.

I think we can start eating some lettuce next week. The squash (left side) are growing slowly, but the zucchini (on the right) are doing better. I saw some tiny radishes yesterday too.

This area had the worst weeds and is the most improved after weeding. The cucumbers and mini pumpkins have started running. The few remaining tomatoes and peppers will need staking by next week.

Stars & Moon Watermelon Plant - Maybe you can see the yellow "stars" on the leaves

Cucumber Blossom

Tomato Blossoms

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

May Daring Bakers Challenge

This was my first Daring Bakers Challenge. When I saw the recipe for the Opera Cake, my first thought was "what have I gotten myself into??". I read through it a few (dozen) more times and got a pep talk from my DH. I took a deep breath and decided I could do this. I decided it would be a nice birthday cake for my dad. Knowing he does not like white chocolate or anything overly sweet, I opted to leave out the white chocolate mousse and glaze on top. Since we had plenty of fresh strawberries in the yard, I chose to add some of those in.

I got up early after dh left for work to start the cake determined to do it all in one day. It was my first time making almond flour. I usually make my cakes from scratch anyway so this was not much more difficult. The cake itself was delicious and very light. The ground almonds gave it such a wonderful texture. I could eat the cake plain. The syrup kept the cake moist even after a few days in the fridge. Buttercream is my favorite icing. I would love to try this again with a lighter, less sweet icing. The strawberries combined with the icing flavor perfectly.

I started off this challenge wondering why I even signed up and ended it with a cake I will definitely make again. Looking at some of the other cakes I found mine to be a bit plain. I realize that this is to challenge me to be a better baker and not to compare my decorating skills to anyone elses. I never would have given an opera cake recipe a second glance before Daring Bakers. Now I am looking forward to next month's challenge.

Strawberries on Top of Second Layer

My Finished Opera Cake

Monday, May 26, 2008

Garden Update

Well, I missed one week of my garden update due to several days of rain. These pictures were taken late Thursday of last week since rain was expected (and arrived) on Friday. I am not complaining about the rain at all. It is wonderful to not have to water the garden. Rain water makes it grow so much better anyway.

The Herbs

The herbs have done very well in the potting soil and have really taken off. I hope they will hold a few more weeks before needing a trim. I did find a nice focaccia bread recipe that calls for lots of fresh herbs. It sounds like the perfect use for all of these lovely herbs.

Lettuces, Radishes, Squash, Pumpkins, & Watermelons

The watermelon plants have been the slowest growing of the bunch. They are finally getting additional leaves. I have started seeing tiny radishes and will start picking those in a couple of weeks. I like them best when they are young and not too hot.

Tomatoes, Peppers, Cucumbers, and Eggplants

Everything in this section is doing well with the exception of the hot pepper plant. The wind blew is over and broke the stalk. There were no paw prints so the cats are in the clear. I will need to stake up the other pepper and tomato plants.

Paris has finally learned to stay out of the garden for the most part. She still loves the cool, damp dirt and especially loves having her picture taken.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Storm, One Lucky Puppy

Storm was a very lucky puppy recently rescued by a kind-hearted man. He and his family chose to save her and are collecting money to cover the vet bills. I found out about this little puppy through another website. It is a legitimate story and has been verified as true. I am a sucker for an animal in need and sent some money via PayPal. It is nice to know there are still some good people in the world. Even if you are not interested in donating, it is still a good story to follow. Sometimes the simpliest things are what bring people from all over together.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


This week vegetable was eggplant. The last time I ate eggplant I was about seven years old. I hated it and had not eaten it since. Dh has been very brave in trying new vegetables so I could not back out of this one. I decided to try a mixed vegetable dish using a recipe from McCormick. I used yellow squash, zucchini, asparagus, and eggplant. Both dh and I agreed that all of the vegetables were good, but the spice mixture was too overpowering. We will be eating eggplant again just not in this fasion. I think I will be adding eggplant to the garden next year. It was not nearly as bad as I remembered it being.

Mixed Veggie Grill

Friday, May 9, 2008

I Did Not Prepare a Speech

My blog is very new and only has a few readers so I was quite surprised to receive a blog award. I was very excited. After reading so many blogs, it was still a big step to start one of my own. A big thank you to Rhonda at A Home with a Smile. I understand that I am to pass on the award to a few of my favorite blogs. Here goes:

Rhonda, who has a wonderful blog

Nina at Love-Sweet-Love

Susan at My Cottage Life

Monica at The Homespun Heart

Terri at PennyAnnPoundwise

Ricksfarmwife at Life & Times of a Prairie Farmwife

Dawn at Because I Said So

J at The Look for Le$$

Dianne at Dianne's Dishes

The Dervaes at Urban Homestead

These are just a few of the blogs I enjoy reading. Thank you again, Rhonda!

Friday Garden Update

The herbs

The tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers

The lettuces, radishes, carrots, pumpkins, and watermelons

I added a few non-plant items in the garden this week. The first was some wire sections over certain squares. That kitten keeps digging/rolling in the dirt. Honestly she thinks she is a dog. It is a good thing she is so cute. The second thing is tomato cages. I am using them as pepper cages, cucumber cages, and pumpkin cages. I did not buy as many as I actually need simply because I am trying to stay within my budget. I will add more to my collection next year. In the meantime I made some trellis type items from things I had on hand. I used tobacco sticks that were once used to string tobacco for drying and some garden twine. These will suffice for this year.

I have found a new interesting website thanks to a friend. Little Homestead in the City is a wealth of information. I amazed at the amount of food that is grown in such a small space. I love the idea of living a simple life and growing much of what we eat. I am planning to be as organic as possible with my garden. One of my goals is to be more self-sufficient and be kinder to the earth overall. I doubt I will ever garden on the scale that this family does, but it is fun to imagine.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Congratulations!! It's a......

girl and a boy and a girl and a few more boys and girls. This little hen hatched nine eggs and now has nine babies to tend. They are one day old. She has her wings full watching over them and keeping them all together. It was so cute to see her teaching them to scratch and peck. At night she tucked them all under her and only a couple could be seen peeking out. This is not the best picture. I had to take it from a distance as mama was not happy to have me near her little ones. I enjoy watching all of the animals but chicks are especially cute. I will do my best to get a better picture over the weekend or early next week.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

I Have a Problem

They say the first step to reform is admitting that you have a problem. My problem is pictured at the left. I collect recipes and am constantly tearing them out of magazines. The real trouble is that I never try any of them. I simply stick the pages in a folder. I decided it was time to be a more adventurous cook. As often as possible I am pulling a recipe out of the file and actually cooking it. {GASP!} After tasting it dh and I give it a rating. If we liked it, the recipe goes into the three-ring recipe binder that is a constant work in progress. The first one up was brown sugar glazed salmon. Dh was a bit skeptical of the combination of brown sugar and salmon, but the results were good. It got a rating of seven. I will be adding it into my collection and will be moving on to a new recipe.
I have to admit that looking back through my tearfile I wonder why I tore some of the recipes out. Perhaps I was hungry when I was looking through the magazines. I know we try some that are awful and those recipes will go straight into the trash.
My goal is to get a collection of recipes so I can do menus for three months at a time. This might not work as I like to shop sales. At least I will have some tried and true recipes to turn to when I am wondering what to cook. I like to cook, and my dh does not mind being a guinea pig. We make a nice pair!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Garden Update & Busy Friday

Time for my Friday garden update. Here is a new picture of the first section which has all my herbs. I did add in two new plants this week. I picked up some marjoram and a lavender plant. I have tried & tried but cannot grow lavender from seeds. The basil is growing slowly but all of the other seeds that sprouted are really taking off. I need to trim and dry some of the thyme.

This is section two which has the lettuces, spinach, squash, zucchini, carrots, radishes, pumpkins and watermelons. The watermelons have yet to sprout. Half of the squash and zucchini are up. I think the other seeds have fallen victim to that sweet cat from last week's photos. She loves to get in the garden and just dig. I will most likely be replanting two squares next week.

Section three looks the least interesting. It has the tomatoes and peppers as well as the cucumbers. I start my tomatoes & peppers from seeds since I have a certain variety that grows well here (after years of trial and error, lots of error). I think I lost a couple and will replant those with some late plants for later tomatoes.

This is one of the pumpkins sprouting.

Here are the radish plants again. They have really taken off this week.

One square area of lettuce

In my defense I will say that I used last year's seeds bought on clearance for the lettuce and radishes. I was not expecting every seed to come up so I was heavy handed when I planted. I will have to do some thinning out in the very near future.

Now for the busy Friday was yard sale day 1 in my neighborhood. We usually do well and this year was no different. I like to do an annual clean out and can always find items to sell. Before everyone things I am a pack rat or spend all year buying stuff only to sell it later, that is far from the truth. Some items are given to us by family members specifically for our yard sale. After several years I also know what will sell and may pick up items cheap with the intention of reselling them. We never make enough to get rich but it is a little extra money. The yard sale is like a little block party when neighbors stop by to chat as much as shop. It has been a long day though. I am looking forward to a bath and the clean sheets I put on the bed this morning.