Tuesday, June 30, 2009

more rhubarb tales and other kitchen happenings



So you see I have had some more rhubarb in the fridge since before our trip to Chicago last weekend, and being that rhubarb isn't all that popular around here (I've already told that story)- I was having a dilemma about what to do with the remaining stalks. I could bake something-but then I would be the only one to eat it, plus that would not be hip friendly. I could cut them up and put them in the freezer-but the possibility of freezer burn, very likely (as with the frozen onions that have been in the freezer for months now, but I know I will use them for something, right?). As my options were dwindling the thought of jam came to mind-yes jam! Yesterday morning I got to work and washed off the stalks-about 8 or 9, cooked them down with a little water, added sugar-about 2 cups and for extra bite I added some candied ginger and a small bit of lemon peel, I was looking for that sweet tangy combo in a bad way. I boiled this concoction down, put it in a jar (just enough for one jar) and voila' jam made.
Other kitchen happenings include making more salads, we are using the lettuce from our community garden. So for dinner I usually make a big salad and then the only thing else I have to prepare is the protein (for us that may include chicken, turkey, or goat) and a little rice.
I got a bunch of kale today from the garden and prepared it for dinner tonight. I sauteed about 2-3 cloves in olive oil along with a small touch of butter, added the washed greens to the pan-cooked the greens for about 7 minutes (shorter if the greens are young and tender, a little longer if the greens are older and tougher). Season with a bit of salt and pepper and your in business.
Summer eating, nothin' beats it!

Monday, June 29, 2009

a visit to the windy city

children's art
Originally uploaded by *nichole*
This past weekend we went to Chicago. We stayed downtown which was nice because it allowed us to be in walking distance to the parks, museums, and coffee shops (which is my requirement). On our first full day there I took the girls to The Art Institute of Chicago. This is such a wonderful place-very family friendly. The childrens area of the Modern Art wing offered art classes and there is an area for reading books and playing the computer (the computer games are all art related). We spent about 3 hours in the art museum-we loved it. Mostly the rest of the weekend was spent walking around the parks downtown and people watching. The kids seemed to be fascinated with all the street perfomers-guys playing drums, a roller skating angel, jazz musicians, and much more. There is always an excitement and energy that seems to surround city life. I also appreciate the cultural diversity that is inherent in large cities such as Chicago. One day at the park while sitting on a bench I just people watched-different shades, different sizes, different heights-people from everywhere.
For dinner every night we ate Senegalese food-talk about good! We just kept going back-grilled lamb, couscous, onion relish made with palm oil, plantains, cabbage-amazing food from a small vibrant restaurant.
So we had a nice visit to the city, but to tell the truth I don't think I'm a city life kinda of gal. I like open spaces and the slower pace of life-so nice to be home now.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Originally uploaded by *nichole*
You know I've been thinking a bit about the last post and how I'm attempting to have a more "yes" approach and less of a "no" one. Really I've been thinking about my own parenting style and how even now nine years into this I'm kinda of making it up as I go along. I know for sure that I want to raise daughters that love the Lord and desire His will in their lives. I also know that I want the girls to understand that the things that the world values (accumlating stuff, fancy houses, cars, titles. etc.) is not important but that forming good loving relationships is-this I know for sure I want to impart to them. Yet I still struggle in other terms in finding the balance between freedom and control. I know I'm very overprotective, but I also know that this isn't always helpful. I know that in order to gain confidence and maturity, they have to make decisions on their own-I know this is my head you see, but putting into practice is hard.
But I'm making a small amount of progress-letting them make decisions without always trying to "correct" them. For instance my daughter wanted to spend some of her money-that she had earned for working in the yard-on something I thought wasn't necessary (chicken nuggets-we have lots of food in the fridge) but she insisted.
I thought to myself that I should give her the opportunity to see that if she does use the money she would have less of it to spend on something else. I know just a small instance-but a start. The balance of freedom and control is something that I deal with daily. I want the girls to be independent creative thinkers, but I also think that offering some structure/guidance is a good thing for them too. See really I have no answers here-just a mom typing out her thoughts. But one thing I'm sure about is that I am daily humbled by the job of mothering and its greatness-and thats when I count on grace.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

lunchin' outside

Despite the terribly hot weather and humidity yesterday (and see I've been wanting this hot weather for my garden) the girls wanted to eat outside. My natural instinct was to tell them that it was way too hot, but then I decided to go along with their wish. After all saying "no" at times gets a bit old.

They told me they want to do it again today-but popsicles are needed.

Monday, June 22, 2009

food talk

current issue of MSL

cake mix

OK, so this past Father's day weekend we didn't make it out to IHOP for breakfast (we stayed out late the previous night-we went to the movies and saw Star Trek and to my surprise I loved it-go Spock!)
I did some cooking yesterday and of course that included making something sweet. After Easter Target had this particular cake mix on clearance. I had never seen this brand before and decided to give it a try-I bought two boxes of the vanilla bean bundt cake mix. I love that the ingredient list is totally readable, always a plus in my opinion. So I made this cake yesterday along with some whipped cream and berries and it was very good. The cake is nice and dense and the berries add a nice contrast to that denseness. In fact some of us even had a piece for breakfast today- I know, but the berries are full of vitamin C and antioxidants right?
Also I borrowed the current issue of Martha Stewarts Living magazine from my friend this weekend. I'm in love with all the summery recipes in this issue, in fact I have already decided that I'm going to purchase my own issue. Lovely ideas for meals out of doors and picnics and a pinch of gardening-all good stuff.
Our plans for today are just low-key, maybe some gardening and/or a visit to the gym, I think there is an elliptical machine waiting for me-after the pound cake and all :)

Friday, June 19, 2009

small random bits

Remember those allergies? Well they were really getting the best of me so I decided to go to the clinic on Wednesday. The doc gave me a script for nasal spray and the suggested using a neti pot. Immediately after my appointment I went to the co-op and purchased one. It is like a little teapot for the nose. You simply make a saline solution put it in the pot and then irrigate your nose with the solution. There are so many you-tube videos about the process which explain it much better than I'm trying to do here-but let me tell you it has improved my sinuses tremendously. I think it's great when docs offer other alternative treatments-really instead of always relying on standard meds (but believe me I take meds when I absolutely need to like when I had strep-no fun). So the neti pot has been a big plus for this week.

Yesterday the girls made matching dresses for their stuffed animals from material I got from the thirft store. They got to cut out the material themselves and then went on to sew the dresses (they pressed the foot pedal on the machine as I guided the material). I think Minnie and Diamond look quite cute in their red florals.

So this weekend I want to do some instant gratification crafting using some fabric scraps I have on hand . I want to make some simple napkins (pattern in Bend the Rules Sewing by Amy Karol). Surely these napkins will brighten even the simplest of meals (and even those including rhubarb).
Also this weekend will include going to church and planning something for Father's Day (maybe whipping up a big breakfast for the hubby or suggesting IHOP-I think I like the IHOP idea).

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

today I'm~

** having a little tea to help with my stuffy nose (my spring allergies are acting up)

** doing a little knitting

** tackling the never ending laundry pile
** planning to eat leftovers for dinner
** going to try to fit a little nap in somewhere

I need slow days like this to help balance out the not so slow ones.
happy Wednesday~

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Originally uploaded by *nichole*
This is the first harvest from our community garden. I'm gonna crunch on them tonight for dinner.

Happy weekend~

Friday, June 12, 2009

rhubarb rejection

For about a week I had some stalks of rhubarb sitting in my fridge that I had purchased from the farmers market. Well last night I decided to do something about it. I thought that the family would like a nice dessert after dinner. So I went online looked up an easy recipe that included berries and rhubarb and went to work (I tweaked the recipe a bit and added some raspberries and decreased the sugar just a tiny bit). As I was slicing up the berries and the rhubarb, my youngest daughter asked me "why are you puttting the strawberries with the celery?" I knew from then on that convincing her that the rhubarb actually would be good in the crisp was going to be a hard sell. Well it turns out that it was a hard sell not only to her but also to her older sister and her dad (who claims that he has no affinity toward rhubarb whatsoever)-so it was up to me to show the rhubarb some love. I had some after dinner last night and then some for breakfast this morning with my coffee. I then took some to my dear friends house for dessert (after our lunch) and we ate it along with the coconut milk cream she had bought for us. At last I found someone with the proper appreciation for rhubarb-thanks friend!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

growing food

tomatoes staked
Originally uploaded by *nichole*
Probably you can tell I like growing things. Flowers, food, its all game. I think that this interest in growing food and gardening is deep in my DNA. Shannon at Nourishing Days asked about our food roots and how we can get back to them and this post is about our attempt. Growing up around my grandparents I got to see first hand the benefits of having a garden along with canning and freezing one's own food. For as long as I can remember my grandparents had a garden (even when they lived in the city). Now they live in the country and have lots of room to plant all that they please. When we visit I'm always fascinated by the latest gardening contraption my grandfather has made for his vegetable garden. My grandfather is in his eighties but still gardens with the vigor of a thirty year old, its amazing really. This of course has influenced my view of food. I want to have a hand (literally and figuratively) in the food I eat.
This year in addition to the small square foot box we have on our deck, we have decided to participate in a community garden as well.
The community garden gets full sun and there is alot of space available. It has been both a joy and a challenge to plant things in this garden. What I especially appreciate is that when I take the kids out there they get to see how the process of gardening leads to food. I do not want their relationship with food to be limited to the grocery store. So being part of this community garden along with the small garden box we have at home is all part of this process in finding our food roots.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

summer morning

*tomato blooms

*blowing bubbles

*baby basil

Monday, June 8, 2009

a gardener's view

tiny, tiny
Originally uploaded by *nichole*
Gardening has given me a new perspective on many things for instance:

*When I see that my neighbor has raked his/her yard and a nice big bag of leaves is now at their curb-those leaves are not just leaves-those leaves can be mulch and future compost!

*now I size up any plastic container that passes through my hands wondering if I can make a mini-hothouse or cloche' out of it.

*old newspapers and cardboard boxes are now saved because of their weed-stopping abilities.

*while eating Chinese take-out I realize that my chopsticks are the perfect tiny stakes for my small plants.

*even though my pantyhose always seem to fall apart on the first wearing-I don't stress to much I know they will do a better job in keeping my tomato vines in order (way better than they did in controlling my hips and thighs).

*I am now the trash police-before something is thrown away it needs an evaluation-evaluation on its compost making ability. Things that pass- apple cores, mushy lettuce leaves, onion skins-things that fail -greasy chicken bones, unidentified leftovers that have been patiently sitting in the back of the fridge for two weeks-sorry.

*earthworms are awesome!

*thining seedlings is a bit of a bummer, I want to keep them all.

*I remember to use what I can
do what I can
grow everything that I can
and can (or freeze) what I grow
and of course share some too.

what a view to have~

Sunday, June 7, 2009

summer top

summer top
Originally uploaded by *nichole*
I got around to sewing a little summer top for my daughter. The pattern has only four pieces, but despite this I won't embarass myself in telling you how long it took me to get this top together (I'm sure this top could be made in 2 hours or less, but not by me :)
Bias tape is tricky, but I managed. The top fits and for that I'm grateful.
Here are some things I have learned from sewing with patterns-
*resist the urge of reading ahead in the pattern instructions-seriously. I say this because for me I usually need to complete the first step in order to see what the second step is talking about. So just go in order without trying to figure it all out -this will prevent headaches along with the urge to tear the pattern up and throw it across the room (I think).
*always have scissors and the seam ripper next to you
* if you use pins have a pin cushion or spare empty coffee mug next
you so that you have a handy place to put your pins (no one wants to step on a pin-ouch!)
*chalk up your first time making a pattern as a learning experience
(if it doesn't look exactly like you want). Yeah I know most of all this has already been said someplace-somewhere, but its good for me to type it out for myself. I like making things, but I don't want to get totally bogged down in perfection- after all perfection is over-rated don't you think?

Monday, June 1, 2009

gardening on the cheap

Have you ever seen an idea or product on TV or in a magazine that looks cool, but you aren't quite sure you want to buy it due to price (this happens to me alot). Well this happened to me again with this product. One day while shopping at our towns big box store I manage some how to place one of these things in my shopping cart. Then as I started placing my items on the checkout belt I began wondering "do I really need this? can I make this myself?" Suddenly the cashier said she wanted one too, but thought she could make a homemade one-I totally agreed with her-and right then and there I decided to save myself 9.99! (thanks Ms. Cashier wherever you are :) A couple of weekends later I got a bucket with drilled holes in it, placed some torn newspaper in the bottom, and with a green plant plastic tie anchored the tomato plant to the bucket, added soil-

and there it is my homemade tomato planter! Not to pretty but cheap, I wonder if its going to work, we'll see.

Another thing I've being doing for my gardening is just keeping a simple compost bin outside on my deck. Actually I started doing this last summer. I just got a big container drilled holes in it, then placed leaves, torn newspapers, soil and compost (that I purchased), and then some veggie scraps. I did add a couple of worms in it last summer, but I think I need some more (I don't believe those worms from last summer made it through our terribly cold winter). I try not to overload the bin with too much stuff because it can easily get out of control-especially since I have such a small space in the first place. I use veggie scraps only-nothing else (adding meat and dairy scraps lends to the possibility of attracting unwanted creatures-yikes!)

A new thing for us this year on the gardening scene is that our family is participating in a community garden. We purchased a garden area from a local farm and we are currently working hard to get things planted out there. Its fun, but also intense at times (like trying to till clay like soil with weeds growing everywhere). I'm so excited about this project and even the hard work it entails. So this is the summer of growing-in many ways.

(please share any frugal gardening tips you have, that would be great)

(small compost bin)