Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend

It was windy this past weekend, not at all pleasant for laying around in the back yard in a bathing suit sipping strawberry lemonade and reading a good book as I'd originally intended.

But when life gives you lemons wind...

Daddy had great fun flying the stunt kite.

Chloe almost got carried away by the stunt kite.

On Monday we decided to try running away from the wind by going for a drive to Silver Jack Reservoir. We did succeed in escaping the wind...

And instead found some snow. The snow was actually falling here for a short time.

We found a geocache at a historic cemetery in Cimarron, Colorado.

We found another geocache on a lovely little hike near Big Cimarron campground. The dog had splendid fun as well.

We saw some beautiful scenery...

And plenty of deer.

When we attempted to cross Owl Creek Pass, we saw this:

It's always disappointing to see fallen trees across the road when you look out your windshield. And we didn't bring the chain saw. Sigh. We had to turn back the way we came, which was not nearly as interesting as I'm sure the top of Owl Creek Pass would have been, though we did get another view of the pretty scenery. We spent a total of nine and a half hours in the truck. It's a good thing we like each other.

And since we spent The Whole Day driving yesterday, the girls and I made our Memorial Day cake today instead.

They ate the watermelon Cora was so desperate to buy from the store. It lived up to her expectations.

Overall, it really was a lovely long weekend. I hope everyone else enjoyed plenty of great food, relaxation, and great family time too!

Friday, May 27, 2011


Since the last post showed my kiddo with rags in her hair, I thought it only fitting to post a few pictures of the finished product.

Please don't think I EVER allow my eight year old daughter out of the house with make-up on. I don't. Except when it's picture day at the dance studio, and make-up is part of the costume. I had fun getting her all made up though. Ninety percent of the time Chloe is my tomboy, with her hair hanging in her face or a limp braid down her back, usually with food or paint smudges on her face and dirt under her fingernails. And I love her like that. But she sure does clean up nice, doesn't she? Looking at these pictures causes a little bit of panic to set in: my little girl is growing up fast!

And here's a picture of the Littlest One, all done up and trying on her costume.

I'll post more pictures from the actual performance in a couple of weeks. :-)

A Belated Mother's Day Craft

One of the best things about my mother in law is her true love of handmade gifts... especially if the girls are involved in the making of them.

With that in mind, we had fun making her Mother's Day gift this year: handmade cloth napkins "stamped" with real flowers.

I sewed the napkins first - 10" squares with the edges narrowly hemmed. Nothing fancy, but my standard napkin "recipe".

Then the fun began.

Using Tulip Soft fabric paint thinned with a couple of drops of water, we brushed the paint onto real flowers and leaves cut from a bouquet from the grocery store, and a few cut from our own plants that are blooming.

And then we "stamped" the flower image on the napkins.

The girls had tremendous fun picking out which flower they would do next, and getting paint all over their fingers.
Please pardon the rags in her hair. It was picture
day at the dance studio.

And the result was very pretty, I thought.
There were a dozen napkins total, though I think the girls would have happily painted them all day if they could have.
And Grandma seemed very happy with the results, which is really all that mattered.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Trials and Tribulations of City Gardening

It's going to be a miracle if my garden actually manages to produce anything this year.

Certainly my lack of motivation is about half the problem. For some reason, planting carrots just wasn't high on my list of Fun Things To Do this spring.

But that's only half of it.

Then there are the neighbor's cats. Or the stray cats that have adopted my neighbors, because they set out food for them. They eat at the neighbor's house, then come on over to the giant litter box in my backyard to do their business. So far, they've dug up my cucumber seeds, my entire cold frame, half the beets, half a row of beans, and my second planting of lettuce. I go to all the work of fluffing up the soil to plant, and it would appear that freshly-fluffed soil appeals to cats in search of a pooping spot. Nice.

And of course, city gardening wouldn't be complete without wretched, Round-up wielding neighbors, would it? For the past three years no one has lived in the house behind us. Each year the weeds grow waist high, with no one coming along to even bother with mowing them down. The weeds go to seed, the seed blows through the fence, and gives me more work to do in the garden. For three years I've been fighting the good fight, though admittedly I've done my fair share of grumbling about it.

But no more. Oh no, the new renters will not let those weeds grow! Nope, instead, they'll spray them with Round-up, right up to (and through) the fence. "Never mind the poor girl on the other side of the fence doing her best to grow organic vegetables for her family to eat," they say. My spinach and turnip greens are now covered in yellow spots where the overspray landed on them. The tomato plants I've nurtured from seed for the past three months are riddled with dead spots.


Ahem. Please, excuse my outburst. But seriously, I'm peeved. I think I'd rather be out in the country, fending off deer and rabbits and raccoons.

As we speak, my sweet eight year old is out in the back yard, nose buried in Little Bear's Outdoor Adventure Guide for the All American Boy. She's studying the trap-building chapter with the intention of luring neighborhood cats into the backyard so that they can be trapped.

I sure hope it works.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Garden to Table Challenge - Week 3

This week's recipe comes (again) from the Food Matters Cookbook. I'm starting to feel a little Julie & Julia-esque, except that I'm serving Mark Bittman recipes every night instead of Julia Child. I suppose I could rename these posts "Julie & Mark"... except that reminds me too much of my ex-husband, and that creeps me out.

So we'll stick with The Garden to Table Challenge.

In keeping with the Bacon Makes Everything Taste Better theme, I present to you:

Asparagus Gratin.

It's wild asparagus season again. We're lucky in that we can spend twenty minutes driving down a country road and come home with enough asparagus for two meals. Tonight's original meal plan was grilled snow-goose breast with wild rice and steamed asparagus, but after an afternoon spent thinning carrots and weeding in the hot sun, and Daddy not being home for dinner, I decided to go for something lighter and simpler.

Asparagus Gratin (I'm not copying this word for word because the book is in the other room and I'm lazy.)

1 1/2 lbs asparagus (I did about half a pound for the girls and I.)
3 Tbsp. olive oil
salt & pepper
2 slices bacon, chopped
1 Tbsp. minced garlic (I used fresh. Well, garlic from last year's garden, which isn't actually fresh, I suppose, but seems to be holding on pretty well after being stored for nearly a year.)
3/4 c homemade breadcrumbs

Roast the asparagus in a couple tablespoons of the olive oil and some salt and pepper. The book says 400 degrees, but I had potatoes in the oven at 350, so that's what I did and it worked. While the asparagus is roasting, cook the bacon in the last tablespoon of olive oil til crisp. Then add in the garlic and breadcrumbs and cook and stir until golden.
When the asparagus is tender, sprinkle the topping on it, then broil it for a couple of minutes until the topping is nice and toasted.

I served this with Parmesan Potato Rostis.

I'm not going to give you that recipe because it has absolutely nothing to do with local, seasonal food, and honestly I'm feeling a little bit funny sharing so many of Bittman's amazing recipes here on my blog. Once again, check out his book. I realize that rostis and asparagus gratin probably don't go together. But I promised The Oldest that I'd make rostis again sometime this week because they are her New Favorite Food.

And for dessert:

Homemade vanilla pudding with fresh fruit. In addition to it being strawberry season, raw milk is also in abundance at our house. Pudding uses it up nicely, and is a little more of a treat than plain yogurt. I had no idea how easy it really is to make pudding from scratch until I gave it a go. Try it. You'll give up Snak-Paks for good, I promise.

I used this recipe I found on allrecipes.com and was really happy with it. It doesn't involve egg yolks, which was a plus.

What are you cooking this week? If it's from your garden, or is local and seasonal, Wendy wants to hear about it at the Garden to Table challenge. Come join in the fun!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Homeschool Notes: Field Trip!

Mostly, homeschooling at our house looks like this:
But now that the sun is out and the weather is warm, none of us have the patience for this Sitting Still Indoors business. Once in awhile we just can't do it anymore. On those days, homeschooling looks more like this:

A trip to Rifle Falls for a picnic and nature walk was a whole lot more fun than practicing multiplication tables and tracing letters, to be certain.

We had a lovely discussion about fossil fuels and our consumption of them on the way to Rifle as we drove past the rigs. "But, um.... won't we run out of gas eventually, if we get it that way?" Exactly, darlin'. You keep on practicing riding that two wheeler.

We covered more topics than I can count- stalactites and stalagmites and the formation of caves from mineral deposits; the nocturnal habits of bats in the caves;

This is her "There is no way I'm going in that cave
and I can't believe you're even crazy enough to suggest it" face.

A study of birds, where Cora quickly learned that blue jays will happily eat cinnamon rolls; watching bugs skate around in the water below the falls, and seeing that if a moth gets wet, it can't fly anymore; And we learned that waterfall water is really, really cold and refreshing.

we watched and identified butterflies, plants, flowers, and fungi (because homeschoolers are known to carry field guides around in their backpacks.) We even stopped at the fish hatchery (where I failed to get the camera out) and we got to feed the fish and talk to a lady about their life cycle. (Because when random strangers learn that you homeschool, they take it upon themselves to teach your children something. Am I the only one who's noticed that?)

A giant mushroom growing
on the underside of a tree trunk.

And on the way back home, we even said all the multiplication tables. So we didn't end up skipping math, after all.

And of course, there was the study in compass reading and the use of GPS when we stopped for a few geocaches while we were in the area - three micros, for any of you that enjoy caching. Micros are so hard for me. It was exciting to find three in one day, with the help of the Daddy.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Garden to Table Challenge - week 2

Totally missed week 1 of the Garden to Table Challenge - just so much going on this spring that I never found the time.

In the garden:

Greens. Lots of greens. Turnip greens, spinach, kale, lettuce and mesclun. The story of spring, I suppose.

We all know greens are really great for us. And if we're all being honest, we'll admit that steamed greens are... well.... not really all that good.

So instead of sharing healthy recipes for greens this week, I'll just share some tasty ones.

There are two things that compliment greens beautifully: pork and hominy.

Unless you don't like hominy. But we do. And taking a page from Southern cooking - bacon makes just about everything taste better.

Recipe #1: Lewis and Clark's bacon and hominy (altered from Cooking on the Lewis and Clark Expedition by Mary Gunderson. Because we're homeschoolers, and we love books like that.)

1/2 package of bacon
2 cans of hominy
A big ol' handful of chopped greens. (Whatever's the most prolific in the garden is fine.)

Chop the bacon into bite sized pieces. Fry it up in a pot on the stove. When it's mostly crisp, add the hominy and greens and pepper to taste. Simmer until the greens are wilted and the hominy is warm.

This makes a nice side dish. The kids also love it for breakfast topped with a scrambled egg and some cheese.

Recipe #2 comes from Mark Bittman's The Food Matters Cookbook, my current obsession. You should all go buy it. Seriously, it's that good. Nearly everything we've made so far has been fantastic, and it uses natural, Real Food ingredients, and not too many 'weird' ingredients you have to go out of your way to find.

I changed up just a few little things. I'll give you my version. If you want Mark's, check out his book.

Posole (Mexican pork and hominy stew)
2 pork chops
1/2 onion, chopped
A few cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. chili powder
A big pile of any sturdy greens - I used a mix of kohlrabi, turnip and spinach - chopped
2 cans hominy, with liquid
1 can black beans (or 1 1/2 cups cooked blackbeans, if you aren't into using canned.)

Brown the pork chops in some olive oil at the bottom of a soup pot. Remove them, and cook the onions and garlic until soft. Add the chili powder, cook, and stir for another minute or so. Put the pork chops back in the pot along with the hominy, beans, and greens. Add water to cover the ingredients, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Stir it occasionally, add more water if needed, until the pork chops are tender - about 10 minutes. Pull the pork chops out, chop them up, and return them to the pot. I served this with warmed corn tortillas, and it was really good.

What are you harvesting this spring? Be sure to share your seasonal recipes at Greenish Thumb and join in the fun (and the contest!)

The First Camping Trip of 2011

Wow, I'm behind in my blogging. Camping will do that to ya... and make you behind in everything else, too.

But it's worth it.

We got really, really dirty.

We roasted marshmallows.


When you're three, it's easy to forget things you did last summer - like eat s'mores - so it's a whole new experience this year. And a very good experience, indeed.

We shot BB guns.

How can you tell when a guy is a Daddy of Girls? When he uses a pink BB gun.

We worked together.

We caught a snake.

Actually no, I can't take a bit of credit for that, it was all Chloe.

We had a great time. I'm so glad spring is here, that our little trips to the mountains are back, that we can sleep in a tent and wade in creeks and eat food cooked outdoors.

And now, I get to catch up. I've almost managed to control Mount Laundry, the garden is only half-overgrown with weeds. And I still need to come up with a few posts for Wendy's Garden to Table Challenge - which you should all run over and check out and jump in on!