Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Here's wishing everyone a safe, fun, and happy Halloween!


Details on the costume making-

Cora's is Simplicity 2571. Four pieces, the pantaloons, dress, apron, and hat. I'm pretty sure she's going to wear the pantaloons frequently for every day wear under dresses. Because they please me more than I can describe. I might even make some for myself.

This whole costume was easy to make considering the cuteness factor - no one part was really all that difficult, just a one-piece-at-a-time kind of project. 10 yards of eyelet lace - whew!

Oh, and I should point out - in case you're wanting to call her Little Bo Peep - that she insists she's Mary, from the song "Mary Had a Little Lamb." And she corrects every person that says, "Aww, look at Little Bo Peep!"

As for the sheep in the picture - we just happened to drive by these sheep sculptures while she was wearing her costume yesterday. I couldn't resist the photo op. :-) (The sheep are the creation of artist Jim Dolan of Bozeman Montana. Check out his website for photos of some of his other work, it's amazing!)


Chloe's costume is McCalls 2335. She loves it. It was wretched to make. Wrestling a giant, stuffed tail at the sewing machine just isn't fun - especially when said tail is made of slippery layers of satin. The spots were her idea - because dinosaurs certainly had pink, glittery spots, didn't they?

The whole thing is satin lined with fleece. The zipper is hidden under the belly, which is a velcro-fastened flap. On so many levels, I would never make this costume again, nor would I recommend it. But then, maybe sewing stuffed satin just isn't my forte.

Aside from the misery of making it, it turned out pretty darn cute, and she is really happy with the result!

Garden to Table Challenge - Week Eleven

Hey, look at that - I'm actually posting when I'm supposed to be!

This is the last week to enter the Garden to Table Challenge. Prizes will be drawn this week, so if you'd like to enter, this is the week to do it! Just share what you've been cooking, from your garden or locally purchased fruits and veggies, and link up with Wendy at Greenish Thumb.

This week's 'recipe' is a simple, high-energy, tasty, and mostly homemade snack. It's not really a recipe, and it's completely alterable, but here's what we had on hand this morning.

Spiced pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, dried apples, and dried apricots.

To make spiced pumpkin seeds (you have GOT to try these):

Wash and dry your pumpkin seeds. I scrub them over a colander, then spread them on a stoneware cookie sheet overnight to dry.

Mix up your tasty goodness: about four tablespoons of melted butter, a dash of salt, then cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves to your taste. (Or you could use allspice. Or you could use apple pie spice. Or you could use anything else that sounds good.) I added a pinch of stevia. If you're not on a no-sugar diet, you could add some sugar instead. Mix all that in a bowl to make a "sauce".

Put your dry pumpkin seeds in a plastic bag. (Or a bowl.) Pour the "sauce" over them, seal the bag, and let your small ones squish the bag to their heart's content. (Or stir in the sauce, if you're using a bowl.) Make sure the seeds are well covered, then spread onto a baking sheet.

Bake at 275* til golden, stirring about every five minutes. Mine took almost half an hour.

Then, unless you had no plans for them, hide them from your children, who will happily burn their tongues on the hot seeds in order to eat them as quickly as you'll allow.


To the spiced pumpkin seeds, I added some dried apples (from a local farm), dried apricots (from a neighbor's tree) and sunflower seeds (some from our yard, some from the store.) Then I raided the cupboards to see what else would be good with them, and found some raisins, almonds, cashews, walnuts and dates.

I make up little baggies of mixes like this anytime we're going to be out and about during the day. Inevitably, children end up starving dramatically as soon as we walk into a store. This seems to fend that off, and I can snack along with them and not feel too guilty about it.

And now, we'll take our snack mix along as we go parade on Main Street with the other kids in costumes, in hopes that my children will fill up on this wholesomeness before they have sacks full of candy to devour.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Carving Pumpkins

I've never enjoyed carving pumpkins. I don't like the smell. I don't like the goo. I don't like the mess. I don't like being afraid I'm going to slip with a knife and cut my finger off. As a kid, because of my aversion to pumpkin carving, we painted our pumpkins, and that was just fine by me.

But not so for Two Little Girls. Carving pumpkins is a tradition that we must take part in, if you ask them.

And so, we did.

We held our noses. We braved the goo.

We managed not to sever any appendages.

And we carved pumpkins.

I'm so glad this particular tradition is over for the year! It's a shame I couldn't convince them to go back to carving turnips. That seems a lot less... gooey.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Garden to Table Challenge - Week Nine

Ahh, the end of garden season.

We had our first frost the other night, effectively murdering the tomatoes, peppers, and beans. Can fresh tomato season really be over already? It feels like it only just begun...

Oh right. It did just begin. Because we've had the strangest weather ever here in the High Desert. Our average first frost is September 16th. This year, we were barely harvesting tomatoes by then! Thankfully the weather held out another month, so at least we did get to enjoy the best of summer's garden produce.

But now, it's come to an end. I made our last batch of fresh-from-the-garden tomato soup for dinner the other night.

The last of the peppers made the last meal of stuffed bell peppers tonight.

We had garden-fresh stir fry for the last time the night before that - fresh broccoli, carrots, green beans, leeks and chard. Stir-fry makes frequent appearances on our table all through summer - at least once or twice a week, beginning in April or May. I'll be sad to see it go, though I have a feeling the children are rejoicing.

It's time now to start serving soup, stew, and chili, time to start breaking into the Winter Stores from the basement.

And it's time to start flipping through seed catalogs and sketching garden plans on graph paper.

Goodnight, sweet garden. I've enjoyed you tremendously. Have a nice rest, and we'll see you next spring.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Pumpkin Patch

We ditched school this morning in favor of more important fun things. We put on our festive Halloween shirts and headed for the pumpkin patch.

First I played with the fancy-schmancy new camera my husband bought for me. (14 mega pixels, 35x zoom, the most gorgeous pictures ever.) I tried bribing my children to smile and pose for some cute scrapbook shots, but they weren't having it. Here are the best of the shots I did get...

Then it was off in search of the perfect pumpkin. When you're seven (or three), your standards are pretty low. It didn't take long until we found "perfect" pumpkins.

Cora's only requirement was that it was small enough that she could hold it. This one fit the bill - but only barely!

After we paid for our pumpkins, we donned our coats and headed for the corn maze.

I've always wondered just what's so fun about a corn maze. Wandering through a corn field has never really appealed to me. But Chloe's got it figured out. You put the map in your pocket, walk as fast and as far as you can, taking all kinds of twists and turns, until you think you've gone far enough. Then comes the real fun - trying to get back out. Lots of dramatic "Oh no! We're going to be lost in the corn maze forever!" and squealing with delight at the prospect of being "lost", and we finally found our way back to the entrance, much to the disappointment of both children.

I'm pretty sure both of them would agree that it was definitely better than English and Phonics though!


Fairly unrelated, but I have to post this photo I snapped while we were there. I'm sure some of you will appreciate it... or not. It's a photo of the barrels they had here and there to collect trash.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Back from the Bakken - Celebrating

Back in April, I shared with you the pros and cons of having a husband who would be working in North Dakota full time.

Now, six months later, I can tell you with certainty that the cons definitely outweigh the pros. Man, not having our Daddy home all summer has been hard. Yes, we get the weeks off to enjoy him, but there's something different about having him home each evening. Weeks off just aren't the same.

Our Daddy came home yesterday. And he's not going back.

Probably the most exciting news of the whole year. :-)

And that's all I have to say about that. Because I have better things to do right now than blog...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hooray for Kitchen Decor

My kitchen is the most-used room in my home. I spend more time in there than anywhere else, and I like it that way.

It's also the most neglected room in my home as far as interior decor goes. I have a lot of excuses for it - it's a very small kitchen. It has virtually no wall space. It's so full of useful kitchen objects that there simply is no room for decorating. And I have, truly, the ugliest cabinets I've ever encountered.

Peach? Seriously, what decade was peach the "in" color? I've tried really hard to let the color of my cabinets grow on me, but it still hasn't happened.

At one point in the history of the home, the owner attempted to begin sanding the paint from the cabinets. They encountered that fantastic shade of robin's egg blue that was popular for awhile, and white beneath that. I know this because there is one cabinet that has one big spot sanded down on it. Clearly, that owner decided it wasn't worth the effort of removing three layers of paint, so they just left that spot. How nice.

Anyway, I finally gave in and decorated the only actual wall in the kitchen.

And it makes me happy.

Because antique cooking utensils thrill me.

It needs a few more, but so far, I'm pretty darn pleased with the result.

And now I have another excuse to keep attending auctions. And that makes me happy, too.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Garden to Table Challenge - Week Nine

I failed kind of miserably this week on this challenge. Cut me some slack, though - we were on a trip out of town for half of the week and I wasn't doing much cooking. So instead of talking about cooking, I'll talk about canning.

The bulk of this year's garden is just about finished. We're expecting our first frost in another week or so. The beans are yellowing and drying out...

I stopped watering the tomatoes so they'd start turning...

The pretty little garden from early summer is gone, replaced by a well-used, slightly neglected plot of land that's working hard to produce enough vegetables to feed our little family.

The peppers will be picked this week and put into the freezer. The last of the beets will be pickled. Only the broccoli, leeks, and greens will be left to do their best to survive. The cold frame is full of baby kale, lettuce, and greens for winter, and I'm starting to make plans for next year. I still can't believe an entire gardening season is already over! Where did the time go?

But just because it's starting to cool off doesn't mean we won't be enjoying garden veggies. The girls and I have been hard at work saving everything we haven't managed to eat fresh. The shelving unit my sweet husband built for me in the basement is piled high with yummy things that we'll be enjoying in the frozen winter months.

The bottom shelf is where I've stacked the tubs of beets and carrots packed in sand (which seems to be working out well, so far.) There will still be another half-dozen jars of pickles, some pickled beets, and probably more canned tomatoes, along with (hopefully) a couple bushels of local apples.

Here's the running total on canned goods so far:

Strawberry jam: 15 pints
Pickled asparagus: 6 pints
Apricots in syrup: 29 pints
Apricot jam: 5 pints
Tomato salsa: 16 pints
Peach salsa: 8 pints
Peaches in syrup: 10 quarts
Bread & butter pickles: 16 pints
Dill pickles: 8 pints
Whole tomatoes: 12 quarts

Many of the ingredients were grown in our own garden. Most of the rest were purchased from local farmers or gifted to us from neighbors. Maybe next week we'll talk about what's in the freezer... :-)

Are you still harvesting or eating local, fresh produce? Be sure to check in with Wendy at Greenish Thumb to share your successes and read about others' at the weekly Garden to Table challenge!

Trying a test post

Never thought I'd be trying to blog from a cell phone... How 'bout a link to google, just for fun? 

And a picture...?

I'm talking to my blog...

Omgoodness. Can talk to my blog and it understands me.

Okay, that's all for now. Sorry for the weirdness. Ha! My blog even understands the word weirdness. Technology is amazing.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

An Obsession with Kerchiefs

Ask any knitter how many scarves she has, and she will probably tell you she lost count a couple of years ago.

But what else do you do when you buy only one skein of some really fantastic yarn except make a scarf?

Ah-ha! You make a kerchief.

It's not really a scarf... but it's not big enough to be called a shawl. They can be worn all sorts of ways , they make good use of color changes and textures. They knit up incredibly fast - cast on today, you'll be wearing it tomorrow. I'm sort of obsessed with kerchiefs right now.

This one is a skein of Noro Cash Island. The colorway made my heart go pitter-pat.

Self-striping yarn excites me in a way I can't describe. And cashmere self-striping yarn? Even better.

Pattern: Chastain Park Shawl by L Mariana
Needle: 11
Yarn: Noro Cashmere Island, colorway #10 (I think this yarn is discontinued. Which is a crying shame.)

And this kerchief was my sitting-in-the-car-for-eight-hours project from our recent trip to Denver. I purchased this skein of yarn at the same fantastic store in Morro Bay, CA where I got the Noro.
The pattern was rightly called "Impulse", based on the need for one-skein projects for knitters like myself who just have to buy a skein of a really great yarn, even though they have no idea what they'd do with it.

Pattern: Impulse by Amanda Muscha
Needles: size 8 long circs
Yarn: Auracania Patagonia Nature Cotton (a thick-and-thin spun cotton dyed in variegated shades of violet, blue, and green. Soft. Gorgeous.)
These are the third and fourth kerchiefs in my growing collection. I can promise you I won't stop here - these little things are just too much fun not to have at least a dozen. And that means I have a good excuse to buy more luxurious skeins of yarn.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Baby Sweater

A friend of mine had a baby boy back in August. Once we knew it was a boy, I could make him a little sweater.

I almost used the scraps from Pablo to make him a stripey sweater, when I realized that making a wool sweater for a baby is just plain ridiculous. Hand wash? Lay flat to dry? Haha, babies get things dirty. Mommies have no time for such delicacies.

I found some fantastic machine washable acrylic at the store. The color thrilled me the moment I saw it.

It didn't occur to me until the sweater was finished that perhaps others aren't quite as excited by obnoxious colors as I am. But this particular friend has a funky, outgoing sense of style, so I hoped she'd like "Mustard Yellow" as much as I did when I chose it.

The resulting sweater is adorable, I think. The pattern didn't thrill me - too many little glitches and the seams don't line up as nicely as I'd like. But it'll look really cute of my friend's new little man, and should keep him toasty warm this winter.

Pattern: Heirloom Cables Baby Sweater by Lionbrand Yarns
Yarn: Vanna's Choice in Mustard
Needle: size 6 and 8 straights - altered slightly to achieve a smaller sweater, as the smallest size available was 12 months.

Garden to Table Challenge - Week Eight

The broccoli in my garden is doing a funny thing. It's making broccoli again.

Broccoli loves cool weather. Here in the High Desert, we have a shortage of cool weather for most of our growing season. I figured my broccoli was done as soon as our highs reached 100 degrees, but apparently it was just taking a break. It produced it's big heads early on in the spring, took a nap in the heat of the summer, and is now sprouting little teeny heads. I'm getting enough to add broccoli to our dinners once or twice a week - nothing exceptional, but still, it's fresh broccoli! This is the first year that I've actually grown broccoli plants that produce heads. I'm not sure why, but it's been a difficult plant for me in years past, so I'm happy with anything I can get at this point.

I made this dish the other night - baked tilapia with vegetables. There's nothing exciting about it except for the fact that this is the first time I ever made fish. I've never been a fish eater. I didn't like it once, assumed I'd never like it, and never bothered with trying to cook it. But it was really good! So good, in fact, that I've made it again since these photos were taken last week.

The recipe was simple: lay tilapia filets in a buttered baking dish. Dot with butter, sprinkle with seasoning. (I used citrus herb Mrs. Dash.) The original recipe I found (on called for a bag of frozen mixed vegetables, but I substituted what I had on hand from the garden - some broccoli, carrots, and zucchini. The veggies are spread in the baking dish around the fish, covered with foil, and baked for about 20 minutes at 350. I served the fish and veggies alongside some steamed chard, and it was a pretty fantastic dinner.


The garden is definitely slowing down. We should have our first frost in the next couple of weeks. To walk through the garden is sort of depressing, seeing as it looks like a very used garden now. Gone are the pretty, neat little rows of root crops, the lush bean vines and enormous sunflowers. All that's left are the tomatoes and peppers, broccoli and kale, a few other miscellaneous bits, and lots of weeds. Soon I'll be pulling everything out, tilling, and planting the fall garlic and nurturing the greens in the cold frame. How did this summer fly by so fast?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Pumpkin Cookies: Friend, or Foe?

I was going to post a quick little blog with pictures from our recent afternoon spent decorating pumpkin-shaped sugar cookies with a new icing recipe.

Because they were cute pictures.

And we had a lot of fun.

I was going to tell you how my sweet children do such a great job of eating healthy foods without complaint that I decided they deserved an "almost normal" kid treat.

But not anymore. No, this is going to turn into another boring, natural health blog. Sorry. But do bear with me.

My children have been utter spazzes for two days. They've been running and screaming through the house, pushing and shoving and fighting, jumping on (and off) of the furniture, and crying at the drop of a hat (or fork, as the case may be.) In short, these are not my children. My children may be energetic, but not like this. Even my hyper seven year old possesses more self control than this. I thought about posting a blog asking for someone to return my children and please take theirs back, because this wasn't working out for me.

And then it clicked.

Orange pumpkins. If you've watched Barney's Favorite Colors enough times, you'll know that if you mix red and yellow, you get orange.

Red dye makes my children - especially my oldest - absolutely crazy. They have it so infrequently that I often forget about it's effects, but it doesn't take me long to remember. She turns from a sweet, if energetic, little girl into Satan's spawn. (I'm convinced this is the primary reason devils are often depicted as being red.)

I had to get out of the shower four times tonight, sopping wet and naked, to ask (beg) my children to calm down. This is not normal. The evening culminated in tears for everyone (myself included in that,) with Littlest One (thankfully) falling asleep fairly quickly, and Biggest One throwing a full-blow, out of control violent tantrum.

The difference is like night and day. Since we've started eating real food, these episodes have diminished significantly. We went to a birthday party back in February where the main color was pink, and we had a meltdown that day, too. But it seems like if I think about it, I can always trace this rotten, scary behavior back to the evil Red Dye.

So while my kids definitely deserve a yummy treat once in awhile, we're going to stick to natural colors from now on, thanks.

If your kid is the same - sweet as pie one day, and on the road to auditioning for the role of Satan the next - maybe food dyes are something to consider? I'm glad we've got this figured out. I never want to live through another night like tonight. You can Google "Red Dye Behavior" for more stories and information about the chemical effects of Red Dye on the brain. I did. It's scary stuff.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Thoughts on Natural Healing

One hundred years ago, women learned how to feed their families by watching their mothers and grandmothers. They learned to garden, they learned to prepare simple, nutritious meals that satisfied taste buds and nutritional needs. Recipes and techniques were passed down through the generations, a knowledge embedded in the culture of our nation.

Sixty years ago, we stopped listening to our mothers. We started letting the Department of Agriculture tell us how to eat. We started cooking with microwaves, preparing soup from a can, and buying our dinners in boxes in the freezer section. And look where it's gotten us - we're suffering from terrifying epidemics of cancer, diabetes, obesity, depression, heart disease.

Exactly the same can be said for the medicinal culture of our nation. One hundred years ago, women relied on home remedies and simple, natural medications and herbs to treat their families' illnesses, aches, and pains. And much of the time, those home remedies worked. I'm happy to admit that there are some true benefits to scientific progress. At the times when home remedies don't work, we're lucky that we live in a day in age when we can turn to the medical profession for help. But I don't think that means we need to give up those tried and true home remedies and herbal medicines. In fact, I think we should try them first. We've learned in the past five or ten years how bad antibiotics really are for us, and we're learning more every day. We're learning about the risks of vaccinating our children against common diseases. We're watching children's medications like Tylenol and Motrin get recalled. There aren't any side effects from a dose of cod liver oil or a concoction of herbal tinctures.

Many of us are re-learning how to feed our families. I think it's time we started learning to care for our families' medical needs as well.

I had a happy success over the weekend, when my Littlest One came down with a bad cold, and then a case of pink eye. Poor kid was sneezing and sniffling, and refused to open her eyes. It was about the most pathetic thing I've ever seen. The first thing I did was start feeding her herbal antibiotics. In a shot glass, I mixed half an ounce of warm water, a dropperful each of echinacea (immune booster) and olive leaf extract (antibiotic properties) with 10 drops of grapefruit seed extract (also antibiotic) and half a teaspoon of honey (to mask the awful taste.) I gave her that mixture four or five times a day. To help ease the discomfort of the pink eye I tried a compress made of grated potatoes (an anti-inflammatory) wrapped in cheese cloth and then soaked in warmed raw milk with honey (antibacterial properties) mixed in. We called it her "squishy" and she held one on her eye every so often through the day.

Forty eight hours later, she's bright-eyed and bushy tailed and you'd never know she was sick.

I'd decided that if she wasn't getting better by Monday I'd take her in to see a doctor, but I'm glad I didn't need to. No icky antibiotics, no side effects, and Littlest One is back to normal again.

Have you had any successes with natural healing? What are you favorite remedies? We may not be able to ask our great grandmothers, but we as mothers can certainly trade ideas and build up our knowledge banks!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Garden to Table Challenge - Week Seven

I've been cursing myself all summer for growing so many varieties of heirloom tomatoes, and not enough reliable hybrids.

Heirlooms are wonderful - the taste can't be beat, and they look so cool in all their funky shapes and colors. But they just don't produce like hybrids do. Hybrids are guaranteed to give you a good solid harvest, if not quite as great tasting tomatoes.

I did find one fantastic use for some of my heirlooms this week though - I made the prettiest salsa I've ever seen.

Red - Early Girl and Polish Linguisa
Purple - Black Krim
Yellow - Green Zebra
Orange - no idea, some guy on the street gave it to my husband.

All chopped up and mixed together, they looked like a rainbow.

I added the usual salsa ingredients - an onion, some sweet red and green peppers, lots of garlic, cilantro, etc. Nothing too special, perfect for tacos and for scooping onto tortilla chips. Between the heirloom flavor and the gorgeous colors, I think this might be the best pico de gallo I've made in a long time. Yum!

Don't forget to check out Greenish Thumb this week to hear more about using garden produce in the kitchen, and add your own ideas and recipes.