Thursday, June 30, 2011

How Does Your Garden Grow?

This week has been the third week of my battle against poison ivy and the new secondary allergic reaction to who knows what.  Three weeks of itching can get a little old. I have it all over, but and my stomach is the worst.  I finally went to the Dr. and they gave me a steroid shot and a pack of oral steroids to take, plus some medicine to help the itch.  The shot helped out TONS.  I'm starting to itch again and the second reactions just look as red as ever (the photo doesn't do it justice).  The nurse who gave me the shot was great.  I didn't even feel the needle!  I find this amazing, but then it might have ti do with the plethora of extra padding on my hip.  HA HA!
secondary allergic reaction to something on my arm

I refer to these as my ow personal fireworks courtesy of mother nature.

     We also made ice cream this week from a  recipe I found.  I will hopefully get that post up in a few days.  We had so much fun doing it as a family and it tasted good o a hot afternoon.

     The container garden is still plodding along.  The cucumbers are growing and have several fruit on them.  The tomatoes are hanging on and I even have some more tomatoes that I am hoping will make it till picking time.  It just got too hot for the greens.  They sprung up and some have even started to go to seed.  I'm going to do a second planting in September when it cools down.  While I was picking my kids up yesterday at my mother's house, I took a look at my "in the ground" garden.  I donated some supplies to create another raised bed in my Mom's square foot garden so she gave me half of the new bed.  I planted vine cucumbers and 2 varieties of bush beans.  This garden has exploded in the last week.  The cucumbers are just starting, but the beans are finally producing harvestable veggies!  I managed to pick a bowl full yesterday and I am going back Sunday and will hopefully grab some more.  I'm thinking a nice stir fry diner.  Here is a slideshow of my garden at night and day and my combined harvest.  I know it's meager, but my vegetable garden is small. I'm also proud to say I haven't used any chemicals on my plants. Enjoy!

Friday, June 24, 2011


Who need's paper when you can create art on yourself?

     Life has been crazy at our house lately.  Normally summers around here are lazy and boring.  Since my youngest was born, my older child (who is 11) hasn't had as many play date opportunities because it has been hard to lug his little brother along so I can help supervise.  I think my oldest would die if I said he was going to a play date. I guess they don't call them play dates when they are going to middle school....they are "hanging out".  We are lucky enough to live in a neighborhood filled with kids, so now that he is a little older this year I have let him walk or ride a block or two to a friend's house.  A lot of time the friends wander over to our house.  Then, they all roam around like an unruly pack of feral dogs from house to house. So needless to say with this new freedom, my oldest chooses to hang out with his friends rather than his little brother and his mom.  I guess it's all a part of growing up.  On the other hand my youngest (who is 3) is getting very busy as well.  Unlike his older brother he is not content to sit and play quietly.  The world is his Mount Everest and he is bound and determined to climb and jump off every part of it.  I spend a majority of my day making sure he doesn't end up in the ER.  I try to plan some sort of activity for him each morning.   Sometimes it's playing outside if it's cool enough, or painting on old paper shopping bags.  To top it off I am STILL trying to find a job.  The economy isn't being kind to someone a semester short of having a master's degree. I'm exhausted just thinking about it all.

     When I am not trying to wrangle children I am still tending my mini container garden.  The peas were and EPIC FAIL.  I was able to harvest (if you can even call it that) one tiny little pea pod.  Then they all turned turned a funny color and died.  The cucumbers that I originally thought were going to die are doing better.  One of the plants is doing great.  I have had blossoms ans now there are tiny cucumbers growing on both plants.  The tomatoes are starting to die.  After fending off the hungry bugs by hand picking aphids and other assorted six legged creatures of they now have blight.  I am not spraying anything on them so I have just been trying to slow the demise by picking off and disposing of the damaged part of the plant.  It seems to be working a little.  I had two decent sized tomatoes and I picked them while they were green to save them, and I plan to do that with the rest as they get bigger.  Maybe I will have enough to make a little something by the end. I apologize for not having garden pics this week, but it has stormed for the past 4 days or so.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Hang in There!

Over the next few days (or longer) you might see some cosmetic changes to this blog.  Like me, my blog gets bored with  the same look after a while.  It might take me several changes before I like what I see.  So if there are multiple backgrounds, bad color choices, or the alignment is off here an there, please forgive me.  Sometimes my toddler decides to base jump the kitchen counter and I have to stop blogging to intervene. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Peach Crisp

Yay!  Now that I have canned peaches…what do I do with them?  Originally, I thought I would make a peach pie, but at the end of a busy day I know for sure I don’t want to be making pie crusts.  Then I pondered about a peach crumb cake, but I just made two batches of banana muffins. All of the sudden, Pow! It came to me (All epiphanies should be accompanied by a POW)!  A peach crisp would be perfect.  It is spicy like a pie, crumbly like a coffee cake, but easy and FAST.  This is something a novice Betty Crocker or Susie Homemaker could do.  We all have to start somewhere.

What you’ll need:                                                                             
2 pints of peaches ( 2 large cans of store canned peaches would work too)
2-3 tblsp all purpose flour
¼ tsp. cinnamon
(I often make a double batch and freeze half)
1/2 c.  all purpose flour
1/2 c. fast oats
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2  c. cold butter

Drain liquid from peaches.  Pour them in a bowl ( I had to drain them again after I put them I a bowl as well).  Add cinnamon and flour. Stir.  ( Because they are packed in syrup I don't feel they need more sugar)

Combine flour, oats, sugar, and butter in a large bowl ( I chop the butter into small chunks).  Using your hands mix the ingredients until the mixture easily crumbles in your hand.  The butter should no longer be in chunks.  

Pour your peach filling into a pie plate or an 8-9 inch cake pan or casserole dish.  Next crumble the topping over your filling evenly.  

Bake your peach crisp for 30 -40 min at 350 degrees.  The top will be a golden brown.
Serve warm with cream, ice cream or whipped topping.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I Think I CAN!

     I was finally  able to do  little canning this week.  Peaches were on sale this week at one of my local grocery stores.  They aren't technically local, but they come from the next state over, so that's good enough for me.  I have never canned peaches before so I made sure to do a little research first.  It is VERY important when preserving your own foods that you do things in the safest way possible.    The best and most up to date instructions on food preservation can be found on the USDA 's website.  I know some of us like to find instructions on YouTube, but when dealing with food it's best to follow the basic instructions from the government ( or another up to date source).  Now don't get me wrong, I did watch a few YouTube videos to get the gist of things, but I also saw some mistakes made that could make you very sick. 
     To try out canning peaches, I bought 15 or 16 nice sized, ripe yellow peaches.  I figure if I mess up it isn't too big of  blow to my food budget if I mess up.  This many peaches should make about 3-4 pints.  The first thing I did was skin the peaches.  To do this I boiled a pot of water and placed the peaches in the water for about 60 seconds, then immediately placed them in cool water.  The skins of the peaches then slide right off.  I was amazed at how simple it really was.  After taking off the skins, I removed the pits, and sliced the peaches.  You can chose whatever slice size you prefer.  My peaches didn't look to pretty after slicing them, but my stomach doesn't mind ugly food. Next, I mixed in 1/4 c. of lemon juice to try to prevent browning.
You can use the product Fruit Fresh if you like.  Now, I had a slight problem...I had to leave for the afternoon.  I threw my peaches int he fridge and covered them up. When I got home I picked up where I left off, but my peaches had definitely browned.  I proceeded anyway.   I decided to hot pack my peaches because I had read in many sources that this was the best way to go.  I wasn't sure how much syrup to make, so I just followed the recipe of 3 c. sugar and 6 c. water.  I threw in the peaches, and brought the peaches and syrup to a boil.
Meanwhile I sanitized my jars and lids.  When the mixture was ready I pulled each jar out of the boiling water.  I placed a canning funnel on the jar to keep the mess to a dull roar.  I ladled in the peaches and made sure to cover them with extra syrup, making sure to leave the recommended head space in the jar. I used a spatula to remove air, and put the lids on and placed them back into the boiling water.  I processed the jars for 30 min in the water and then removed them.  I made sure to place the hot jars on my counter in a place they wouldn't be disturbed (or touched by an unsuspecting toddler THEY ARE  HOT).  I checked them about 20 minutes later and they seemed to process like they needed.  Unfortunately, the peaches did seem to be floating.  I left them overnight to cool and sure enough they had sunk back down by morning.

  Next time I can peaches I might make a few changes from what I did this time.  I think I might go with a lighter syrup.  The syrup seemed a little sweet to me when I tasted the left over peaches.  Second, I think I will add some more syrup to the jar and maybe pack the peaches in a little tighter.  I have yet to try the peaches I have canned.  I'm a little nervous about the whole thing actually.  That will be the true test of my canning success. 

     The tomatoes seem to be doing well.  I have two tomatoes on each plant.  They get bigger every day.  The salad greens are growing, but I think I planted them a little too late in the year for our climate.  We will see how they go.  You can harvest them at any size, but I would prefer mine to get be triple the size they are right now.  The cucumbers have made a rebound and look great!  I even have a little cucumber starting to form.  Now for the sad story...get the tissues out.  The peas were a failure.  I pulled them out today.   I am hoping to pick up some marigolds cheap to keep the bug population down.  Not everything can be a success.    This winter I will have to do a little research.  Oh an we had some baby birds in the front yard.  They flew away last week, but I was luck enough to capture them.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I Found My Sink!

     Hi, my name is Amber and I suffer from Chronic Messy House Syndrome.  Kidding aside, I know this is something many of us suffer with.  It crosses all socioeconomic, education, and child status levels.  I have been a messy person almost my entire life.  I think there was only one time that I can remember having an immaculate house, and that was when my oldest son was a baby and toddler. I gave up on immaculate after boy child number two.   Even as a child I was messy.  It was so bad, that every year when I went to overnight camp, my grandmother would come in and purge.  I kept nearly every toy I had growing up.  This probably comes from when I was little and my mother wasn't able to spend money on things like toys.  At one point I was one of those kids that got nothing for Christmas ( one of the children from the other family we lived with gave me a Hot Wheels to make me feel better). When my grandparents got custody of me I was lucky enough to be spoiled rotten, but I still hung on to "things" for dear life.   I am a lot better about getting rid of things than I used to be, because I realize the stuff isn't important.   I try at least twice a year to donate our still in good shape clothes and toys (It's actually mandatory at Christmas to give away 25% of toys to charity).   This cuts down on clutter and makes my children realize, that even though we struggle , there are families that have even less. Since I have been able to keep everything to a dull roar, I have decided I want my house to actually be tidy.  Step in Fly Lady. ( She has a book just go to my Books I Love  in the right column and click on "Sink Reflections")
   I have been a fan of Fly Lady for the past 11 years.  I have used her baby steps to at least minimize the clutter damage.  I  fall of the wagon more often than not.  I am pretty good keeping up the routine when I am at home with my kids in the summer, but the second I am in school or work.......well, you know the story.  I  jumped back on the wagon about a month and a half ago halfheartedly , but I am determined to step it up.  I have already established and adjusted my routine and this week I am adding two more habits.  They are puting away dishes and shining the sink. Today, I actually followed the rules of shining completely... minus soaking the sink in bleach for an hour ( my sink won't hold water for an hour).  I probably won't soak my sink in bleach very often, because I feel like we use to much antibacterial products in our homes (we are all in good health in our home).  I of course always disinfect after meat, illness, and things like that.  If you have someone in the house who is immunocompromised you would of course want to disinfect things on a constant basis.
     Keeping a routine and a clean house is also good for the soul.  I have to admit I am a bit "complicated" leaning on the overused Facebook term "it's complicated", but that's the best way to describe me.  I have had a lot of ups and down's in this life and routine is what always helps me bounce back.  Getting up, getting dressed, and actually doing something, ANYTHING can help a girl start off her day in the right direction.  At one point I literally had to write out a schedule.  Fly Lady doesn't use lists but with my ADD and my "dynamic personality" I find that having a list broken down in small increments (and crossing each of when done) helps me see that I have accomplished something.  Sometimes I will even take before and after pictures, so I can physically see what I have done.
  So check out Fly Lady and see what you think.  Does it work for you?  Just set your timers to 15 minutes and go!

In other news the tomatoes are great, the cucumbers are flowering, the salad greens are growing, and well.... the peas look ill.  I spend a lot of time picking aphids off one plant, but it is paying off!