Tuesday, August 5, 2014

2014 Garden Update: August Tomatoes

Well, it is a new month, and I thought I'd give a garden update.  I'm only going to talk about my tomatoes though, because reasons.

The Mountain Princess beefsteak tomato plant has not loved life.  It caught some sort of tomato plant disease and mostly turned yellow & withered up.  It was very sad.  I did get a handful of fruit from it before it gave up the ghost.  They were tasty, but not special tasty.  I don't think this is a variety I'll grow again.

On the other hand, the Isis Candy cherry tomato plant is growing like mad and starting to take over the raised bed.  The tomatoes themselves are really sweet & have a lovely variegated red-orange-yellow hue.  See?  Cute AND tasty!


The nasturtiums are also growing like crazy, and have managed to avoid aphids so far.  They got planted near the onions and escaped spearmint, which helps I think, since bugs generally don't like mint or alliums.

Oh, and I am finally getting sunflowers!  They are a lovely pale lemon yellow colour - almost the same colour as my kitchen.  Since the pack was a variety pack, I can't wait until the rest of the blossoms open so that I can see their different colours.

How are your gardens doing?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Banana Pear Bread

So far, today has been a lovely day.  There is a nice breeze keeping it from being too hot & sticky outside, I got up in time to have breakfast (which partner cooked) before going to yoga class, and I may have treated myself to a tiramisu gelato on my way home from said class.

Then I noticed that there were 4 overripe bananas & 2 overripe pears sitting in the fruit basket.  This immediately led to the decision to make banana-pear bread.  It turned out pretty awesome.


You will need:
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 eggs
4-5 medium ripe or overripe bananas, mashed (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup vanilla or plain yogurt (about 1 single serving container)
1/4 cup cooking oil or melted butter
2 medium ripe pears, finely diced

Preheat oven to 350F, and grease a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan.
In a large bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients, except the sugar.
In another bowl, combine all the wet ingredients and pears.  Make sure they are well mixed.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just moistened (it is supposed to be lumpy).
Pour the batter into your prepared loaf pan and bake for 55-60 minutes, or until a wooden tooth pick inserted near the top centre comes out clean.
Now, the hardest step:  cool 5-10 minutes before attempting to slice.  I lasted 3 and got slightly burned fingers for my efforts.

I hope you enjoy!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Grilled Garlic Scape Pesto

Our produce delivery has been really lovely the last while.  Part of that, I'm sure, is that things are coming into season here, so we're getting lots of super-fresh, local items!

Not too many baskets ago, we received a pile of garlic scapes.  For a long time, people thought of them as compost, since you need to snip them if you want nice, fat garlic bulbs.  However, in the last few years, they've come back into fashion, which means that they are often quite expensive at the farmer's markets!  It was lovely to get some in our basket at no extra charge.

We weren't quite sure what to do with the scapes, and since we were planning on barbecuing the following day, we decided to toss them on the grill too.  We tossed them in a tiny amount of olive oil, with just a light sprinkling of salt & pepper to season and grilled them for 2-3 minutes.
They were not too shabby prepared that way, but we could only eat about one each with all the other items we had grilled.  So I made them into pesto!  (I love pesto, if you had not yet guessed from all the other pesto recipes in this blog)
I think grilling them gave them a softer flavour than if I had just made the pesto straight.

Here is what you need:


A blender
About a dozen grilled garlic scapes
parmesan cheese
olive oil
hulled pistachios (I got mine at the bulk food store)
salt & pepper to taste
maybe some water, depending

Roughly chop your garlic scapes and toss them in the blender (I did not do this, and it took forever to blend everything down.  Don't be like me, and chop your's first!).  Add in 1/4-1/2 cup pistachios (I didn't measure, I just tossed in 4-5 handfuls).  Give a good solid few shakes of parmesan, a little salt & pepper, and pour in 1/2 cup of oil to start.
Pulse away, and add more oil as needed.  I think I ended up using about 1 cup of olive oil, but I also added about a cup of water to mine, to make it more sauce-like.

If you are not using it right away, you can pour it into an ice cube tray to freeze, or stick it in the fridge for a bit.  I had so much, I managed to have a full ice cube tray and a 250ml jar full!


I used some of the jar in tonight's lasagna, and it was quite tasty.
If you find some garlic scapes for a good price and decide to try this recipe, I hope you enjoy it!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Garden Update: July 2014

Now that we're in July, I thought I'd do a quick update on the garden - especially since I got my first serious haul of produce into the house the other night (as opposed to the little smaller bunches of stuff that I've grabbed).

Sugar Snap Peas, French Breakfast Radishes and a mess of green beans!

I have pulled up quite a few radishes & eaten a lot of sugar snap peas before this photo - these are just the ones that have largely made it into the house unscathed.  The peas especially are lucky to have made it this far - I find them extra delicious right off the vine.

Here's the main veggie patch.  


I know that it largely looks like a big green mess, but from left to right, you can make out: potatoes, in a light beige pot, sweet peppers, in the plastic terra cotta looking pot, broccoli (the dark green leafy thing behind the peppers), snap peas, carrots & dill all mushed together behind the broccoli,  the cherry tomato in the pink cage in the centre, the white rectangular pot of lettuces, celery, radishes & beans to the right of the cherry tomato, and in the last tomato cage, the beefsteak tomato plant.  Also, lots and lots of weeds . . .

The beefsteak tomato is not loving life this summer.  Most other things at this end of the garden seem to be doing okay though.


Here's the left side garden.  The blasted daylillies are taking over again.  However, the white patch in the front is my lovely thyme, all in bloom.  The chives are also doing really well. The oregano is still struggling along in the middle of the patch.  The far end is where the sunflowers ended up, and so far, so good with them.  We'll see what happens when we finally get some flower heads - especially when they get seeds.  I suspect I will have it out with the neighbourhood squirrels again.

  
The right side garden.  The daylillies on this side are largely containing themselves.  Between these guys and the hostas you see in the background, the strawberries are doing okay - they did not fruit very well this summer, but they are everbearing varieties, so I may get a better crop in August.  The onions seem to be going along alright, as is the nasturtium I got.  The spearmint from last year escaped its pot and somehow got into this patch, so, that will be a forever struggle to keep it under control.  


Finally, the deck pots.  I have two of the rectangular pots - the other is just out of frame.  They both contain the watermelon radish seeds, and neither is doing well.  Too much rain, and the squirrels have been digging in them.  Rosemary and lavender are also performing decently.  The cinnamon basil (the dark green pot) however is also not loving life.  I can't figure out why.  On the upside, at least it is giving me (and the bees) a decent amount of flowers to look at.


The globe basil to the left is doing awesome.  I love it.  Really, you have no idea how excited I am for pesto making.

That concludes today's tour.  How are your gardens growing?  Have you harvested anything yet?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Bodies Are Confusing

Lately, I have not been feeling so great about my body.

Working a job where you sit for most of the day, combined with a cold Canadian winter where you want to stay cozy indoors has led to an issue with shorts and skirts fitting this spring & summer.  Boo and urns.

Since I generally do more running around in the summer months, I'm sure that at least some of these items of clothing will eventually come back into rotation, but for the moment, my jerkbrain is making me feel kinda yucky about the whole thing.

However, that being said, my body still manages to surprise and amaze me.

The last two yoga classes I attended, I managed

a) to get into wheel with no assistance

b) stay up in wheel for the length of time the instructor was having the class do wheel/bridge!!

So, while my butt might be having issues with wanting to fit into some of my comfy summer clothes, my core, shoulder and arm muscles are doing an awesome job of reminding me that I can be strong like bull.

I hope that you are feeling awesome about your body, or at least have something to appreciate about it.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Craft Stuff: Easy Hot Air Balloons

Today was a bit of a rainy afternoon, so while the munchkin had her nap, I did a little craft I've been meaning to do for a while.  I made 3 adorable hot air balloons to hang in the munchkin's room!  They were super-easy, quick and they look pretty good if I do say so myself.


Here's what you will need to make some on your own.
To start, you will need approximately 6 things:  scissors, clear tape, markers or paint, bow wire (I included a photo of this with the label, so you could see what I mean), a paper lantern (the kind that comes without lights), and an appropriately sized takeout container/treat box.  I forgot to include the scissors, tape & markers in this photo, but I think it is a safe bet that you all know what those things are.  Everything on this list is easy to find at most craft stores (and sometimes the dollar store!).



If you chose a plain paper lantern, and you want to decorate it, now is the time!  Mine came in a three pack (two in the star pattern, and one plain gold), so I didn't have to do anything.  Once your lantern is decorated, the next step is to cut the flaps off the top of your take out container.


Now it is time to decorate your container!  I chose plain cardboard because I wanted mine to look like a wicker basket.  However, if you find coloured or patterned ones, decorate them (or not) however you like!
To get the wicker-y look, I used three different coloured markers, yellow, light brown and dark brown, borrowed from munchkin's stash of art supplies.  I did it in order of lightest to darkest as below.




Not too shabby, eh?  Up close, you can tell that this is a rough marker job, but since these are going to be hanging from the ceiling, that doesn't matter too much.  I was just going for the effect from a bit of a distance.

Now the part that took the longest.  Your lantern should have one side with a plain metal bar, and the other side should have a hook-y thing.  You want to attach your basket to the plain bar side, as shown in this photo.  That way, the hook end is free when you go to hang up your balloon.


Now you want to take your bow wire, and wrap it around the bar on the lantern & the handle on your basket, like this:


And a close-up, because I was apparently on the ball earlier today:


The bow wire is actually a kind of wire, so while it is a good idea to knot it at either end, it will hold its shape fairly well.  If you want to get really fancy, you could take the handle out of the take-out container and replace it with the wire, but then you have a trickier job of making sure both sides hang evenly.

Now, you just have to hang your balloon and admire your handiwork!  We were unfortunately out of clear line to hang up my completed balloons, but the photo at the top of the page where I held it at eye-height came out pretty well I think.

I hope you enjoyed my little project.  Feel free to share if you make one for yourself!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Toddlers Confuse Me

Sometimes I wonder how the human species survives the toddler years.

Babies are cute and adorable little blobs who give you gummy smiles and generally do their best to endear themselves to you.  It is a matter of survival, and they know it - they need you to feed and protect them.

Toddlers are defiant little blighters who need your help to survive but refuse to admit it.  As they are tiny humans who are still learning social mores, they do completely irrational things, and often get away with it.

For example, it is considered perfectly normal for a toddler to eat their dinner wearing nothing but a bib and their undies.
Also normal? Biting, hitting, kicking and screaming to express their displeasure with something.  These displeasing things can include daddy touching your shoes, having a broken cracker, eating the last grape, or not being allowed outside in a snowstorm wearing only your pajamas and snowboots.

I may have sprained a key portion of my brain related to thought in the last weeks.  Possibly on the day she laid down on the sidewalk and refused to walk, but screamed "I BIG GIRL" when I offered to carry her and then tried to bite me when I tried to pick her up anyway.  Her plan was apparently to live on the sidewalk forever.

Then she got distracted by a cement truck that drove past.

I've suddenly lost my main point in writing this, but I think it is that while I love my child dearly - and it is hard not to when she wraps her arms around my neck and says "I wuv you mama" - sometimes, her actions, words and attempts at logic hurt my brain.