April 28, 2011

Spring Fever

I've got the fever ... to get out in the dirt! I took these pictures early this morning and my hands were freezing as time wore on. But today is supposed to get up in the mid 60's, so I'm heading out soon to clean up all my perennial beds. I'm going to pull around a tarp the take my giant scissors, cutting back all the dead top growth, and rake the beds. I've got a lot of wildflower seeds - mainly annuals - to reseed some beds.

"Glory of Snow" bulbs in my grass
I used our electric drill and a 1/2" bit to plant 100's of the above flower bulbs in our grass several years ago. I guess that's one way to aerate!

To the left of the above tansy plants are my first two perennial beds to the east of our front porch. Monte had brought the soil up from the woods. Wild raspberries came with the soil and I let them grow along with my flowers. So far they are the better producers of raspberries than the ones I've purposely planted. We freeze quite a bit of raspberries. The yellow flower heads of tansy dry beautifully.

Nights still freezing - frozen bird bath and old Sunflower head
I've not successfully planted sunflower seeds and gotten great plants. The chipmunks do the better job of planting birdseed sunflowers. All I have to do is pull out the extra hundreds!

The Herb Garden
I made herb labels several years ago out of Sculpey dough you bake in the oven rather than buy the expensive ones at the nursery. They're just tied with twine to bamboo poles. I could see the winter savory, thyme, sage, lemon balm, and oregano starting to send out green shoots. Behind this bed the tarragon, lavender, and sweet cicely bushes are popping up too. And then there's the crab apple tree ready to burst into bloom - by the end of the summer it's totally entwined with a clematis vine.

Chives readying to bloom

Autumn Sedum Joy beautifies the winter garden

Forsythia starting to bloom

Greenhouse garden seedlings started
I started my seedlings a bit late this year, but it'll be ok. There's broccoli, cauliflower, kale varieties, tomatoes, and then nasturtiums, clary sage, marigolds ... I've got to start basil, winter squash and more things next.

Clematis entwined in grapevine in greenhouse and green tomatoes

Grapevine needing to be pruned - starting to invade potted plants

April 27, 2011

Sterilizing Kitchen Sponges/Washcloths

Monte took off to run errands and I'm hearing a beeping in the kitchen. Nowadays all appliances ding or beep when done, or when the refrigerator is not shut tight, and my washer and dryer 'sing'. I just checked - he'd put a sponge in the microwave to sterilize. I've heard that some types of sponges could catch fire, so check on yours. We put dishcloths and sponges in microwave for 3 minutes to sterilize. Monte's mom, who was always bleaching hers to sterilize, loved that tidbit of info. So I'm passing it on.

Baked Cod Parmesan

Alaskan cod was on sale yesterday ... so what to make ... I was thinking of a homemade pasta dish. I made lasanga last week when Travis and Sarah came along with another young couple to stay a couple days and dye Ukrainian/Pyasanky eggs (check it out at my overflow blog). We made homemade lasanga pasta and it was THE BEST lasanga I have ever tasted - and they agreed. We were all rather silent savoring our first bites! UmmUmmGood!!!! I am going to make another homemade pasta lasanga this weekend, so I'll take pics and post.

I could have googled cod recipes, but looked at the few fish cookbooks I have instead. Several Fall's ago Monte and me visited Boston before heading up to New Hampshire. We walked all over Boston for several days and loved it. We were told, besides the historic trail, to visit the Legal Sea Food restaurant - we bought their cookbook. This cod recipe sounded good. I'm eating leftovers now as I'm posting this ... still good.

2 lbs cod fillets

1 C fresh chopped tomato or Marinara Sauce

2 Tb chopped fresh basil

3 Tb freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

1 Tb olive oil

Preheat oven to 425. Place fillets in baking dish and cover with the sauce and basil and bake about 8 minutes. Add the grated cheese and dots of olive oil and bake another 5 minutes, or till the cheese melts.

The fish smelled rather fishy when I opened the wrapping. Unless I have fresh fish I always soak most store bought fish in some salt/ sugar/ and milk water. I'd read those will rid the fishiness of fish. After about an hour Monte thought it still smelled fishy so rinsed it well and soaked it longer in ice water with lots of lemon slices. I cooked it a bit longer - 10 and 10 minutes and never added the olive oil. This winter I've had fresh herbs in my greenhouse - so I had fresh basil. I'm guessing I added more marinara sauce and cheese, but don't know, I didn't measure - just put enough to cover all the fish.

The cookbook suggested serving it with rice and broccoli. I usually like a rice mixture with wild rice and needed to pressure cook it since it takes longer to cook. Broccoli grows very well here and I usually freeze at least 20 pounds every year - in 1/2 pound bags, now that it's just Monte and me. The cookbook also suggested that mushrooms and chopped peppers could be added to the fish topping. That sounds good too. I usually always stock lemons/limes, mushrooms, peppers, and marinara sauce.

I like recipes that have menu suggestions.

April 26, 2011

Greenhouse Gardening

Plant shelf with heat coils and grow lights
I'm back to blogging again. My commitments are past; my color design class, after a year, is over. I've been busy exploring various textile crafts and taking pictures but not taking time to write blogs.

Lettuces and Greens
My plans for now? To get my garden spaces cleaned up and ready for this year's growing season. Spring flowering bulbs are starting to bloom and things are greening up and starting to grow. I anxiously await this time of year ... 'Anxious' because some things die from lack of Winter moisture, or pocket gophers and voles. I have started veggie and flower seedlings in my greenhouse: broccoli, cauliflower, kale varieties, tomato varieties, and favorite flowers.

I will not bother with growing carrots, radishes, beets, or lettuce again over winter - too labor intensive and a huge electricity draw for keeping it warm. What I will always keep going tho are herbs. I enjoyed having fresh herbs all winter: chives, parsley, rosemary, cilantro, basil, mint, oregano, sage, and thyme (I should have typed some of those in the song's order ... it's now running in my head!). The grapevine's leaves are filling the entire greenhouse ceiling space and Monte keeps looking for newly forming clusters. The clematis vine that twines into the grapevine is just now starting to flower - it's the deep violet Jackmanii variety. Tomato plants in the corner have been giving us cherry tomatoes, but I don't know if I'll grow them over winter again either.

Entwined together: Potted Fig tree, tomatoes, and grapevine

Mock Orange - been babying over a year; seeds from Monte's family homestead

More Ukrainian Egg Dying Info

I'm cleaning up the dining room table of all the Ukrainian Egg dyeing tools. I have a box the jarred dyes return to along with all the kistka tools, candle holders, beeswax, how-to instruction sheets and then the vinyl tablecloth. This year there's cartons of undone raw eggs to put by the box in the garage too. Will I pull it all out to make Christmas tree ornaments next fall? Every year I say I will ... We'll see. Varnished, blown out, and hung with silk cord and tassel would be beautiful!

I took some pictures of eggs that got left. Gary made the egg faces. Most people took home their eggs. I save cartons prior to Easter so they can be cut up for protecting a few eggs. Like most of the gals who came to my Spring Tea did two eggs. Friends stayed on into the evening dyeing more. Then, as I was starting to put everything away the Easter weekend Dawson texted me saying he was "bringing lots of friends to dye eggs ... and by the way, we're staying for supper". I had no plans. We had homemade pizzas for supper - a dessert one with brie, chocolate chips, and sliced cranberry sauce was delicious. I want to make it again for improving the recipe.

Something I thought I should mention, to add to the dyeing instructions I've posted about, is the use of bleach. My boys are big-time into the use of bleaching their eggs. You can see in the above picture the back eggs that are quite white. Most of these started out as black eggs, waxed, and then bleached. Travis's egg with the birds and the sunset below, started out black too. He probably bleached it several times, but beware ... excessive bleaching can weaken the egg shell. I bleached one of mine, wanting a truer green after the scarlet, but I didn't wash the egg after bleaching - with soap and water! Bleach will affect the dyes. My egg didn't take the green dye evenly. I hope I didn't wreak the dark green dye. Monte's still got his serpentenite egg in there ... waiting ...

April 25, 2011

Quinoa Salad

We had Easter supper at Travis and Sarah's home, along with some of their friends. Sunday evening is usually open house. We've been there many times; spending the night since Travis has Monday's off of work. Hospitality is something they truly practice. Everyone is told the meal's theme and are to bring something to share.

Sarah cooked a ham and scalloped potatoes for this meal. Emily brought a apple pie and green beans. Amy brought bread and ice cream. Stevo brought watermelon and drinks. I brought some of my homemade wine and a quinoa salad.

Cook and chill (like 20 minutes - and I like to toast the quinoa in the pan first) -

1/3 C quinoa

2/3 C water

Then mix in -

1 C cherry tomatoes halved or chopped tomatoes

1/2 C diced cucumber

1/4 C diced onion (I did a lot of green onions since I have them growing in my greenhouse - or use lots of chives)

2 Tb lime/ lemon juice

1/2 tsp grd cumin

salt and pepper

1 avacado

Serve over spinach

Since we were serving buffet style and extra people, I did some things different besides extra amounts. I added some balsamic vinegar and olive oil. I'd precooked the quinoa at home and added in the juice and cumin. The rest I chopped and added that afternoon before supper. I'd periodically stir it adding in some spinach, come back and stir in more spinach, then add the avacado right before supper. We did put the extra spinach to the side if anyone wanted to add more to their plate.

April 21, 2011

"Cocolate Pudding"

OK . . . This may sound totally weird . . .

But it's actually pretty good! I need to credit Mitra Ray from her Juice Plus email for the recipe. I'm making the recipe smaller for just one or two servings.

1 avacado

1/8 C unsweet cocoa

1/4 C agave nectar or maple syrup

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

pinch of salt

(water, coconut milk, rice milk ... to thin it if needed)

Blend this till creamy.

Garnish with fresh fruit.

April 19, 2011

Banana Bread (+ Sandwiches)

You should see my recipe card! It was covered in plastic, which has been somewhat melted away in places and the paper is yellowed. It came from a neighbor friend of my mom's when I was very little. I've tried other banana bread recipes and this is still my favorite. Whenever bananas are turning dark brown to black I make banana bread, or put them in bags in the freezer till I'm ready to make it.

1 scant C sugar

1/4 C melted unsalted butter

1 egg

2 med bananas

Mash the bananas with a fork in a bowl along with the above ingredients. Add -

2 C flour (whatever I've got ground in the freezer - often oat or barley flour, sometimes kamut or spelt - I try to not use wheat for everything, and soda breads and muffins and cookies ... don't need the gluten of wheat for rising)

1 tsp baking soda

pinch of salt

(1/2 C nuts)

Bake in greased loaf tin about 1 hour at 350.

For my Spring Tea I spread the banana bread thin slices with Nutella. I thinly sliced a Granny Smith apple and put it in lemon juice added to water for a bit to help keep them from turning brown cuz we weren't eating them right away. With the apple slices in the middle put the two 'nut-buttered' slices together to make a sandwich.

Use banana bread for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches too. What other possibilities? . . .

Meringue Cookies

A family favorite for years has been Raspberry Kisses - meringue cookies made with raspberry jello for the flavoring. I've always wanted to try making them without having to use the jello. I still need to find a raspberry flavoring/extract, but these are the basics for meringue cookies -

2 egg whites at room temp

1/2 C + 2 Tb sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Whip egg whites till they hold a soft peak. Add the sugar slowly till stiff and glossy. Fold in flavoring with a rubber spatula. Other flavorings? -

1 tsp cocoa powder or

2 Tb ground hazelnuts or

1 Tb dark brown sugar or

1 Tb ground unsalted pistachios ...

Most recipes suggest piping these 1" apart on parchment paper. Bake till crisp and dry at 250 for about 1 hour. Cool completely before removing them from the baking sheet. OR you can shape an indentation in the mounded unbaked kisses with the back of a spoon, for adding a filling to when cooled. I just mounded them on the parchment.

Piping would have made them even. For the tea I stuck two meringues together with jam.

April 18, 2011

Cranapple Rolled Grains (Oatmeal) Cookies

I filled a large tin with these cookies. Monte's always asking for homemade cookies and these are going to become regulars. I made them for my Spring Tea.

3/4 C unsalted butter

1 1/4 C sucanat sugar (unprocessed dehydrated sugar cane)

1 Tb molasses

1 lg egg

1/4 C milk

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

1 C whole wheat flour

1 1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

3 C rolled oats (I used 1 C each rolled oats, barley, and rice)

1 1/2 C dried cranberries (could use dried cherries, or raisins)

3/4 C dark chocolate chips

1 C applesauce or chopped apples (the first thing I found in my freezer was pear sauce instead of applesauce, so used it)(I make applesauce from our crabapples and freeze it)

(1/2 C chopped walnuts or pecans)

2" rounds (I usually make them smaller) on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 375 about 12-15 minutes.

April 17, 2011

Palm Sunday

My wool bean-bag nativity I made is still displayed on an old travel trunk in the dining room. Maybe the trunk will become my seasonal table for differing displays. I don't pack my creche away anymore. There is a high bookshelf above the windows in our great room that it normally sits on except at Christmas.

For Palm Sunday years past I put a Jesus figure I made from wool on a donkey surrounded by paschal lambs on our kitchen table. I'll have two tablecloths at varying angels that are a deep green and purple. I like to bring palm fronds home from church and add them to the table as well. This year I added a cross and nails to the creche scene and Jesus on the donkey with the lambs in front.

April 12, 2011

Dieting for Lent

I wrote about dieting early January - that's always a January topic. I did a diet last fall and lost 20 pounds. It's a Ketomist HHCG oral spray - 2x/day. I only put back on 5lbs over the holidays. If I would exercise more that wouldn't have happened. I hardly exercise and know I should.

I decided to give it another round for Lent. I think it can only be bought through someone's site - I have a link on my sidebar. I never would have done it originally if it wasn't for a trusted person's testimonial and I went in and purchased through his link. You're supposed to read an article by a Doctor in Rome who runs a clinic for obese people wanting him to monitor them. It tells of his protocol and his clinic gives injections of the HCG. When I'm on the site, I read everything. I copy and pasted the recipe suggestions into a document I could easily access on my desktop. After looking through the recipes I knew I could do it.

Lent is often a time people do like to choose something to eliminate for awhile. Maybe some people, like me, hope to develop new habits. I did start exercising more - and am now looking forward to the nice weather of Spring and Summer to help me exercise more and make it a habit that I can't live without during Winter! In my January post I mention one type of exercise I adopted because it's only 15 minutes (actually 18) - I can easily do that!

I didn't restrict my diet as much this time around since I didn't have much more to lose. And during Lent, Sabbath's are never a fast day - so each weekend I'd have a day of eating pretty normal. But the reality of life is needing to get used to smaller meals and proportions. We do eat pretty good foods. I've always been a label reader - avoiding transfats, dyes, high fructose corn syrup, and long lists. I look for good fats and lots of fiber. I start getting headaches if I consume too much of processed, unnatural foods - basically non-foods, and too much sugars.

April 8, 2011

Ukrainian - Pysanky - Egg Dyeing

Ukrainian - Pysanky Eggs
It's that time of year again. I've ordered more dyes, though I still have last year's dyes jarred in a box in the garage. Since more people are going to be coming to our home to do eggs this year, I thought I'd get some fresh dye. We'll use both.

I saw an article in a 1973 National Geographic Magazine on Ukrainian eggs, and wanted to do them. Since I knew how to do Batik textile art, I understood the process, but didn't know special tools existed. As is typical of me, I just jump in and do things. I got beeswax and melted it in a metal measuring cup and stood over the stove painting the wax on eggs. And the only dyes I new of were the typical grocery store Paas (?- I think that's what it is) dyes. Monte joined in the process when we were dating.

Soon after we were married I found the traditional kistka tools and special dyes. For years now we've been ordering supplies from the same store, and have bought kits for wedding presents. We've also bought a lot of extra tools and leave the dyes out for about a month and have had many people around our dining table decorating eggs. One couple, years ago so looked forward to it they started designing eggs months beforehand. When they moved away they bought their own kit and have done it every year.

Though electric kistkas exist, it's traditionally done by heating the metal funnel of the kistka over a candle till the beeswax is melted. It does not run out until it touches the egg. It's a wax-resist process, starting from lightest and getting progressively darker. You initially wax over everything you want white and put egg in yellow, once dry, you wax over what you want to stay yellow, and so on. When done you hold the egg to the side of the candle and wipe the melting wax off with a paper towel. The eggs are raw and they dry out over time.

This picture is just one of the three cartons that got done several years ago. That was a very productive and artistic weekend of eggs - Travis had several couples come and stay several days to dye eggs (and enjoy just hanging out, of coarse). Dawson has friends come too. Everyone loves it! I've gotten emails from both boys this year - going to be bringing friends again!

I cap the canning jars of dye and repack the box. I store them along with the old silver spoons, candles and candle-holders, box of tools and instructions and pictures, and then the vinyl tablecloth. It can be pulled out anytime. Every year I say I'm going to do it for Christmas ornaments - but I haven't yet.

Several years ago Monte made a shelf for the eggs to better display than the hanging wire baskets I've always kept them in. The company I order the dyes and tools from, the Ukrainian Gift Shop, has a variety of stands for the eggs. So I got a bunch of the cheap clear plastic stands. Monte is going to make a shelf unit for each of the kids too.

Having done these for years, I never varnished them and finally did a few years ago. It's a final step I've always skipped. So some of the varnished ones are older and already faded. These dyes are toxic, so no eating of the eggs, but are not run-proof, so make sure the varnish is not water-base. We nailed three nails every so often in boards to support the eggs and I use my gloved hands to rub the oil-base varnish on the eggs. (The stands could be used in the oven on low temp for helping melt the beeswax off. I've not tried this - but a book I have shows it.)

April 6, 2011

MOPS NeedleFelting Craft

I've been a MOPS Mentor Mom going on 11 years now. I led the needlefelting craft for my MOPS group today. It was so fun and the gals were gabbing away while creating beautiful felted pictures. Most of them were needled onto craft felt that I provided. I'll glue these onto cardstock and use as cards.

April 5, 2011

Felted Lariat Flower Necklace

Felted Lariat Necklace
I've been having so much fun exploring more wet felting techniques. There's a lot of felted jewelry ideas to explore. For this Lariat necklace I first needlefelted the flowers and leaves. Then I wet felted the green rope. Then I needled on the leaves and flowers. I might want to add some beads.

April 4, 2011

Felting Over Styrofoam - Eggs and Wreath

Wet-felting over styrofoam
Just like felting over soap, you can felt over styrofoam. Just like my felted soap tutorial, I'm using the plastic sandwich bag for felting over the eggs. At the time, I only had the smooth styrofoam. I wanted to experiment again. I'd totally needlefelted wool Christmas ornaments and found the styrofoam needed to be the pourous rough styrofoam. This time I wanted to wet felt the initial wool layer to the egg - so much faster. In fact, once blotted in a towel, you can needle your design details with the still wet wool ... if you need to, which I did need to when I did another tea crafting party ... but that's another post ...

So start with the coarse styrofoam for balls, eggs, wreaths, whatever shape ... when you want to needlefelt. The only way I could get design details on the smooth styrofoam wet felted eggs was to needle the flowers on sideways catching the designs into the wool - so don't even mess with the smooth styrofoam. I order most of my wool from HalcyonYarns.com. The Babooshka Soup bag has lots of wool strings and other fun fibers that make for decorating ornaments and eggs very easy. I love the Peace Fleece fiber and the Harrisville wools.

Tightly cover the styrofaom with thin layers of wool. Carefully squish into a corner of a plastic sandwich bag, put a drop of dishsoap on the wool, let the water get hot and put a bit in the bag. Squeeze the bag around the egg and then start slowly rubbing the plastic around (I still have not tried doing this in a nylon stocking). Then rub the plastic more and more all over the egg so the fibers can migrate and tangle together tightly. The soap will disperse all thruout the wool. You'll eventually need to squeeze out the excess soapy water and rub some more. At this point I'll often rinse the wool, squeezing out excess, but a bar of soap over it and then rub over bubble wrap for another form of agitation. I don't do this for long because needling on a design will tighten things up more. This whole process probably amounts to just a few minutes per egg. Rinse them well and blot in a towel.

Then needle on your design details. I didn't take a picture of the finished eggs ... I'll have to do that and post.
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