Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I Cannot Take Responsibility

He dressed himself this morning.


Monday, August 25, 2008

The Fruits (and Vegetables) of My Labor

This has been quite a canning season for me. I've been canning for quite a few years now, but spurred by the vegetable garden outside (I'm guessing, because who really knows where the obsession comes from), this is probably the busiest one I've had. I'm realizing that I've written about canning here, here, here and here. Hmmm.... well, here's another post about canning, and where I fess up as to what I canned.

Okey dokey. When I left you in suspense, I was working on a peach/plum harvest that we did at a local farm. We had a blast that day, and the kids are champion fruit pickers. We had gone on Sunday, and then I spent Monday and Tuesday (and Tuesday night) canning (and freezing a bit) what we had picked. This is what that looked like: Curious??? Wanna know?? Me too, actually, 'cause there's a lot there. Ok, here's the rundown.
Out of the plums (11 pounds), I put up:
3- 1/2 pints of Spiced Plum Butter. Wow, try this one. The smell is unbelievable, and the taste is out of this world. Seriously good!

4- pints of Plum Jam (which was really 5 pints, but I only had 4 pint jars ready, so the extra went into a reused jelly jar in the fridge.) This jam is surprising-tasting, which is the only way I can think to describe it. You think that it's going to be really sweet, like most jams are, but then it's got a really fresh taste to it with the sweetness, so the sweetness kind of goes to the background. Every time I taste it, I am surprised. It's very good.

6- pints of Sugar Plums. Meaning, whole plums in syrup. There is no spicing with them, just plain fruit in sugar water. The plums we picked this time around were small reddish plums. They easily fit in the jar, and they were so pretty. So instead of chopping all of them up, I picked the nicest ones, poked them with a fork and preserved them in medium syrup. They float, which seems to be my curse when preserving fruit, because no matter how I pack them, hot or cold, tightly or not, any type of syrup, they float. But they are pretty, and I know they're going to be delicious, so who cares??
Ok, I started with the plums on Monday. You know, as a warm up. On Tuesday, I tackled the peaches. 32 pounds. My kids like to pick peaches. :) That made:

6- 1/2 pints of Spiced Wine Peach Jam. (that's the first picture in this post) Ok, this one is very good, but it's because of the spices. I don't really taste the wine in it at all, which is a shame, because I used a good wine for it. I am hoping that if it mellows a bit, I may taste it more. When it's fresh, the wine taste is pretty nonexistent.

6- 1/2 pints of Lavender Peach Jam. Ok, yes, I can recommend this one. The lavender is there in smell and taste, and the peaches are a wonderful compliment to it. Neither one is overpowering. This is one of those frou-frou chic preserves you'd see in some store somewhere, selling for $12 for the 1/2 pint or whatever. So I think if you were going to can to give gifts to someone, this would be the one to make. And it's easy, which is the kicker. Very good, and very impressive!

2 pints and 1 1/2 pint of Peach Butter. This one is ok, but I think it would have done better with a bit of spicing, like the Plum Butter. I added a cinnamon stick during cooking, but it could have used a bit more....something.

6- pints of Honey Spiced Peaches. Yeah, more buoyant fruit. Oh well. These are peaches basically hot packed in a sugar syrup that uses honey as the sweetener. The spices are added to the jar, and then the peaches and syrup are put on top of them. It will need to mellow to get the spices to do their thing. I used cloves and cinnamon sticks for half, and star anise for the other half. All I can say about this one (because I didn't taste it) is this; if you enjoy mead, make these. We do, so I did. That's the smell from the honey syrup. It was good!
2- pints of Fruit Ketchup. It used peaches, tomatoes, and some other stuff. I was intrigued. I have tomatoes. I figured, what the heck?? It smelled good, but I have no idea how it tastes, because hot ketchup is not something I really wanted to try. I'll have to let you know about this one...

With the rest of the peaches, I was going to make canned peach pie filling, but the recipes I had for it either made a too-small amount (like 4 pints--what can you do with that? That's only 2 pies worth, so it's not really worth it) or a too-big amount (like 7 quarts--and I didn't have enough peaches left for that), so I just cut them up, treated them to prevent browning, and froze them. I can still make peach pie with them, and it was easier.

That took care of the peaches and all the fruit we had picked. But the garden had produced a bit too, so I put up:

3-pints of cherry tomatoes in water. No picture here, but trust me, they're floating. :)

2- pints of Gingered Zucchini Marmalade. Being as though I have some zucchini, and I have frozen a ludicrous amount, I thought "hey, why not? I'll try something different.". Famous last words. First, there was a marmalade disasterThis, friends, is what can happen when you leave to go pee. Don't do it. Just hold it in. Trust me, you'd rather hold it in than have THIS smell permeating your kitchen. Oh boy.

After the burned batch, and all the scrubbing I did to clean that pot, I tried again. It worked better, but I think I overcooked it. Then, not to give in, (because I won't be beaten by zucchini) I tried again. The third batch was the best. I stopped before I thought it was done, and it actually was the right time to stop. So go figure. I did have extra, and I have tasted it, and all I can say is eh. What a description, huh? The zucchini isn't there at all to taste, so that's fine, because that would be odd, and all you can really taste is the lemon and orange in it. I didn't taste ginger at all. Yeah, I don't know about this one. I think if you're going to make marmalade and risk marmalade disaster, make orange or something. Leave the whole zucchini thing out of it. I don't think I'll repeat this recipe.

Ok, after that whole thing, it was like 10 o'clock at night, and I was feeling like I needed an easy win, so I made Cabernet Franc Jelly.
This is the super-easiest thing to make, it's ridiculous. Get a good bottle of wine, a little sugar, and some liquid pectin. Voila! Wine jelly. It is good, it is fast, and it sounds super impressive, too. And it's good with cheese and crackers and also as a glaze for meats. Win win. :)

See the ridiculous jars, by the way? Those were the store's answer to "I just want a jelly jar, please". That was it. I went looking for those quilted jelly jars, and that's what they had. Wide mouth, "platinum" band. You KNOW I'll never find the tops for those things again, right? UGH. Plus, the shape is so weird, they just kept falling through the rack in the canner, over and over again. Oh well. At least the color is pretty.
Wednesday I spent cleaning up the kitchen. Thursday I took the day off (go figure). Friday we went tomato picking, because although I am growing tomatoes, I grew heirloom tomatoes, which don't all ripen at the same time, and cherry tomatoes, which you can't really sauce (though I may try it anyway). The kids picked plum tomatoes and some globe tomatoes which were so perfect my mom called them "Disney Tomatoes", and on Saturday, I tomatoed. On Saturday, I put up:

6- pints of Chunky Garden Salsa. I used the tomatoes, some jalapenos, some zucchini (go figure), some peppers, etc, and salsa'd. It seemed soupy to me. I haven't tried it yet.

6- quarts of Plum Tomato Sauce. Just plain, no spicing. I figure I'll do the spicing when I cook it up for dinner.

3- pints of Ketchup. This took a LONG time. A LONG TIME. I started with it, because I figured, what the heck, by the time the ketchup is ready, the jars will be warmed up, the lids will be ready, I can peel all the rest of the tomatoes, and it'll be good to go. I also should have added, and I can clean all the bathrooms, weed all the gardens, and read War and Peace, and THEN it'll be ready. That's how long it took. The result is good, really good. But I don't know if I will repeat this one. At least not on a day when I have other things I want to do.

Then, because I do have lots of ugly heirloom tomatoes in the garden, and because I didn't want to mix them up with all those pretty "Disney" hybrid tomatoes, I used them separately to make 2 different kinds of sauce, which I didn't can, but I did freeze. I made a Mexican Yellow tomato sauce with Chipotle peppers, and a red tomato sauce with basil.
I just reused old sauce jars I'd been saving for those. This was the easiest. Make the sauce, let it cool a bit, plop it in the jars, freeze. Good deal.

And that's it! I am done canning until apple time now. Or until I see a good deal on u-pick pears or something....
Oh, stop me now!!

Friday, August 22, 2008


Did you ever notice that the best gifts are the ones that show that someone was thinking about you, and just wanted to give you something that they thought you would like? A lot of times they are things that don't cost anything, but are rich in thought. I received many gifts this week. It was a wonderful week.

Last Saturday, my mom brought me a bunch of lavender. She has Provence lavender growing in her garden, and this year, she got a bumper crop. The smell was just intoxicating. Well, she went outside last weekend, and was cutting the flowers because they were really finished, but the bracts were still there (and wow, do they smell good), and she brought me a huge bunch to dry. The bunch is both hands around, that's how big it is. The smell coming from the bag is just better than I can describe. What a gift. I am so thrilled she thought of me.

On the same track, she was growing watermelons in her garden. They are cute little watermelons, a variety called Sugar Baby, or something like that. She gave me one. Another wonderful gift!

On Friday, we had the gift of a day out. This week has been long, with a lot of canning going on, and running around getting ready for school. Friday, we went out tomato picking and picnicking. It was a nice break, and the kids (and I) had fun picking tomatoes. In fact, Little Boy turns out to be an expert tomato picker, which was previously unknown.
I've been so busy, I haven't had a chance to really catch up on my blogs, but I finally got a minute, and found another gift. Cathey has given me an award!!

And look what she said about me:
Jocelyn - this mighty woman adds magic to everything she does from stitching and quilting to gardening and baking.

Thank you Cathey!! I am honored and thrilled and truly touched by what you said!! I will display this award proudly. Thank you so much!!

So many wonderful gifts this week. I hope you all are having a wonderful week too!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Fall Found Me Again

Last night, I got done cleaning up the kitchen after 2 days of canning (and making a mess, too), and went outside to look at the vegetable garden. It was a cool evening, the sun was going down behind the trees, and the air was a pale blue. I was in the tomatoes, picking a few that were ready, and a little breeze blew, bringing the scent of fall to me.

And all of a sudden, I was a child again, sitting in my room at my parent's house, doing my homework in the evening, at the desk in front of the window. The windows were open in my room and the crisp fall air smell came in and told me of promises of leaves turning, and the dark excitement of Halloween to come. It was that smell--that smell of the evening in fall--the one I can never seem to find here that seems to have found me. It lasted a minute. It lasted less than a minute. It was gone as fast as it came, and I didn't find it again all evening, though I tried. But it was there, for a moment, and I was back in time with it.

I know I have said that fall smells different here--it does. I miss the smell I knew. Why it brings me back to being a child, I don't know. Maybe because things were so much simpler then, though I didn't know it at the time. Maybe because it feels like a safer time. All I know is that the fall found me again last night, and it brought tears to my eyes. I was truly thankful.

It's sort of summer here again today. The heat has come back, but it's bite is gone. The leaves have continued to slowly turn. I can tell that summer is over--what comes during the days is just a shade of what it was. I am looking with excitement to the coming season. I hope you all are too.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I Be Cannin'

Be back.....eventually. :)


Friday, August 15, 2008

It's a Good Day

You're probably pretty tired of pictures of tomatoes and squash and stuff, so sorry, but I can't help myself. And since this is my blog, I figure oh, what the hell, I like squash, I will take some pictures of them. So here is a picture of some squash. These are pattypan, which are very delicious and mild-tasting, as squash go. They are very enjoyable.

This is what they are "supposed" to look like when you pick them (meaning, ideal size):

This way, they can be cooked and eaten whole, and they are good!! I don't always pick them at this size, though, because I feel like that's too small. So I will usually leave them until they are sliceable size, and then I'll slice them and cook them, and they are still so good. But sometimes, when I'm feeling wild, I will leave them longer, to stuffable size like this:That's when they are still tender and yummy and can be cooked by stuffing them with something (I like breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese with balsamic vinaigrette---YUM!) and putting them in the oven. They are big enough to hold in the palm of your hand, and weigh about a half pound each. They are a meal in themselves.

Then sometimes I like to not see a squash for--oh, I don't know--three weeks or something, and then go out and be surprised because there's a squash there that I didn't see, and all it's been doing is getting BIGGER, and it looks like this:
Here are some pics for scale. The littlest on the biggest.

This thing is like a work of art. It's 3 lbs, 2 oz. I don't want to eat it. How long do you think it will last if I just put it on a table as something to look at? Is there a squash taxidermist anywhere? Does anyone know? Geez, I just want to look at it all day, it's so pretty.

I did get many other things from the garden today, though, too. Here's a picture of them all. I am SO proud (can you tell?)

93 cherry tomatoes, 3 zucchini, a bunch of other "ugly" tomatoes, more pattypan, the huge pattypan, and I even braved the huge spider's lair and picked some beans (thankfully I didn't see the spider). Wow. I am super happy today!!

Turns out I am sharing my tomatoes with the groundhogs, though.

They got two of them. Furry buggers. Least they could do is eat the whole thing. What a waste, just eating a chunk and leaving it. Now that I know, I will have to find a way to combat them.

Ok, that's it for me today. I've got a million things to do. Thanks for stopping by and have a great day!


Thursday, August 14, 2008

.....And Today I Took Them Back Off

Actually, I took them back off on Tuesday. Oh well. I didn't think it would last. The heat is back, but it's bite is gone. That is a relief. I got to do a good amount of weeding outside, which needed to be done desperately. At least the gardens are tidier.

Yesterday, I found the biggest, creepiest spider in the beans. I am not a fan of spiders, so I am very hesitant (to say the least) to go back into the beans and harvest. I will have to be really careful. And wear thick gloves. Shudder

Before I found said creepy huge spider, I did get a nice harvest.
The little brownish tomatoes are the Chocolate Cherry tomatoes. They are the ones I had to wrestle with. They have now grown about 2 feet past the supports and don't look like they are going to stop anytime soon. At least they are productive! The big huge yellow tomato in the front is a yellow Brandywine. They are ugly tomatoes, from an aesthetic standpoint, but they are huge. This one is one of the larger ones. It weighed 1 1/2 pounds all by itself. I called it Big Bertha. Then we ate it. YUM!

I hope you are all having a good week!

Monday, August 11, 2008

I Put On My Socks Today

Sounds like a song, doesn't it??

I put on my socks today,

I looked out, the sky was grey,

something something something

hey hey hey...

Ok, well... that's a work in progress. Maybe it's a country song. I dunno.

Anywho, I put on my socks today. Why? 'Cause it was CHILLY!!

I don't wear socks in the summer. Ever. In fact, I don't even wear shoes if I don't have to. I go barefoot all the time, if I can. It's just a thing I have. But today I had to put on socks. It's cold and damp. Summer ends quickly here. Around mid-August, that seems to be about it. I can't claim a long history on this whole theory, I've only lived here a couple of years, but for the 3 summers I've gone through, mid August and late August is the end of the summer and the beginning of the fall. Even the trees agree with me on this. Look at this:

Can't see it? How about now:

No? How about a big, blurry version?

Them's leaves are yella!

It's the beginning of the end. Woo hoo!

I'm not a huge fan of summer, though I try to be. I try to enjoy all the seasons, because otherwise, I'd be missing out on part of my life, and that would suck. Spring I enjoy because the Earth smells so good, and the weather is so mild, and it's time to plant and there are so many possibilities ahead. Winter I enjoy because it's time to be indoors and the holidays are around, and it's hibernation time. Plus I really like snow. Is there anything in the world like the quiet outside after a good snowfall? I don't think so. Fall is my favorite time because the Earth smells so good and the leaves are so pretty, and there's harvest and chilly nights that aren't cold but just a bit crisp. I feel energized in the Fall in a way I don't feel any other time of the year. Fall is crisp and dark and watchful and exciting. I don't know why. But there is a connection there that I feel every single time. Summer I have a tough time with. I am trying to look at it as the time that the plants mature and produce food and the bounty of it is wonderful, because it is wonderful. But the heat just gets me every time. I hate the heat. So it's a work in progress. I will find a balance with Summer. I just have to see where the peace with it lies.

But today I had a piece of fall. And I felt that energized excitement that I always feel at this time. I know I'm a bit premature here--summer's not quite done having it's say, and I'm sure that later this week, the heat will return, even if it's slightly less edgy. But I enjoyed today, for sure. I got to put on my socks. :)


Friday, August 8, 2008

Honey, I Skunked the Car

I was driving home last night at about 9:30. It was dark, made moreso by the fact that there are no streetlights here (a fact I really like). There are, however, a lot of animals (I like that too), and when it's dark, they come out. For this reason, I drive home pretty slowly, usually about 30 or 35 mph. This almost always ensures I have someone driving up my rear end the entire way home, since that just seems to be what people do up here (which I still can't understand since the speed limit is all of 40). So, as normal, I was driving home, watching out for whatever my try to run across the road, with someone up my butt.

9 times out of 10, I make it home without seeing any animals. Sometimes I will see a deer or raccoon on the side of the road, thinking about crossing, but usually changing it's mind. Last night, a skunk decided to run across the road, right in front of me.

Now I have someone up my rear end, not close enough that I can't see his/her headlights, but still too close, and I'm going 35. Not enough time to stop. So I try to swerve so that the skunk goes under the car, between the tires. I have no idea if he will do so. I don't even know if that will kill him or not, but I have to try, because I didn't have enough space to brake. So I swerve. And Pepe La Pew goes right between my tires, almost through the center of the car.

I wait for the bump, thinking maybe I didn't aim right. I'm thinking I may have hit him anyway. Maybe he kept running and ran under the tire, despite my best effort.

But no bump. So maybe I didn't hit him.

Holding my breath, I look out the rearview mirror.

Because I had tried to stop so suddenly, the up -my-butt driver has backed off a bit, and in his headlights I see a little white streak running back into the woods, back the way he came.

So little Pepe will live to stink another day.

I feel pretty good about that. Then it occurs to me that he was, after all, a skunk, and what do they do? Spray. Yeah. And I just scared him pretty good, no? Yeah.

30 seconds later, the smell comes. Very subtly, but there.

30 seconds more, and oh boy. The car's been skunked.

By the time I got home a few minutes later, the smell is, well, potent. I pull into the driveway and get out of the car, and well, the smell's a bit more potent out there.

So I go inside and tell my husband as nicely as I can (it's his car, by the way--I may have forgotten to mention that) that the car's been skunked.

Actually, what I say is this:

"Hi honey, I'm home. Wanna hear something funny?"
Luckily my husband has a pretty good sense of humor. He came out to look, or -er- smell, and tells me that not only is the car mean looking (as in dinged up--I didn't do that, by the way, it's just old), it's now mean smelling.

Heh heh heh.

Sorry honey.

So the car's been skunked. Funny thing about it is, that before I got home, there were a bunch of kids playing football in the dark at the next door neighbor's house. After I got home, it seems that the game broke up rather quickly. I wonder if it has anything to do with the car....


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

So Embarrassing!!

Today I took Little Boy and Little Girl to the library for an ice cream social. It was part of their summer reading club activities. I thought it would be a nice surprise for them, because with ice cream, how can you go wrong??

They were very excited about it, and when we got there, the library was swarming with kids--just tons of them, all waiting for ice cream. Of course, when you're talking about that many kids, you're bound to know at least one or two of them from a class or two. Well, I knew a few from Little Girl's preschool class, and a couple from her Kindergarten class.

I recognized the kids right away, since I'd both dropped off/picked up Little Girl from preschool for the whole year and also because I'd done a lot of volunteer work at the elementary school this past year and met a lot of the parents and their kids. So when I'd see a kid I knew (and therefore Little Girl knew), I'd say "Hey, isn't that a kid from your class?"

And Little Girl would say yes.

So I'd say "Why don't you go and say hello?"

To which, of course, Little Girl would say no.


Maybe it was just that kid, for some reason. Who knows. Bad kindergarten blood or something. But each and every kid I saw that I knew she knew, I'd say the same thing. And each and every time, she'd say no. The more kids I saw and mentioned, the more unhappy she got with me, until her eyes were rolling around in her head with the displeasure of my asking.

So I laid off.

But when we got into the car, I figured I was safe. There was no one around, and maybe she'd tell me why she didn't want to talk to any of her friends. So I said "Hey, Little Girl, why didn't you want to say hello to any of your friends?"

And she turns to me and says "Because you're embarrassing".


I've got to admit, I'm a bit stymied by this. First of all, because the kid who just said this wanted to wear a hand towel around her neck to this party, to pretend to be a superhero. It was only after MUCH debate and arguing that she agreed not to wear it when we went out. Is a handtowel cape a cool, normal thing, I guess?

Secondly, I dress normally. I look (pretty much) like other mothers. And I've got kids with me, it's not like I'm just some odd loner going to the party because I wanted ice cream for myself .

Thirdly, and maybe most prevalently, I would think, is that people don't like me so they don't talk to me. Well, no, let me rephrase that. Other mothers don't like me, so they don't talk to me. Because of that, I don't talk at these things. I just speak to my children, help them with whatever they need, and smile politely at the crowd most of the time. I do say hello to the other mothers, but they always run away as fast as possible. So really there is no way I'm embarrassing her by talking too much, or talking too loudly, or laughing at things, or anything like that.

Apparently, I'm embarrassing her by just being.


I didn't know that I should expect this at the age of 6. It's about oh.....6 years earlier than I expected. Oh well.

So, I am embarrassing. That's ok. Now I know. I will try to fade into the wall a little more from now on, I guess (though I'm not sure how much more I can possibly do that). And cool, normal Little Girl will be cool and normal.

And yes, she IS now wearing that hand towel. She put it on as soon as we got home.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Not Just Gardening All The Time

Well, I seem to be losing you all with the talk about the garden (not that there are too many of you to lose as it is), so let's switch gears a little.

I do tend to live outside in the spring and summer, I like working in the dirt and tending plants, and now that I have a vegetable garden, I am completely obsessed with the idea that I can grow food and put it by. Not a bad thing to do, really. These things are skills I really think everyone should have.

But there are other facets to me as well. I have been in my studio a bit, and I also have been stitching. As I have no completed sewing projects right now, I can show you a stitching project I have been working on. This is a Papillion Creations freebie--a newsletter project they release once a month. I am up to part 8 so far, so it should take until December to finish. The project had 3 versions--completely cross-stitch in 6 colors, completely cross-stitch in 2 colors, and cross and specialty stitches in 6 colors. You pick your own colors and linen. I picked my colors and linen and am doing the 6 color specialty stitch version. I am pleased with it so far. Take a look:

Sorry about the dark pics. It's not the sunniest day today to take these shots. Darn.

And some close ups:

This is a nice project. It's quick and challenging, but not frustratingly so. If you subscribe to the website, you can see many other people's versions of this project--the range of colors used really is wonderful to look at. Everyone has their own slant on the project, and it's really enjoyable to see.

So see? Not just gardening all the time. But mostly. :)