Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Goose, goose, duck....

One of K's favorite things to do is to take a trip to the pond and feed the ducks. We ventured there today and the geese far outnumbered the ducks. They behaved themselves and were very mild mannered....although we did watch our backsides. Let's just say we've met nasty geese in the past that didn't mind their manners. Fortunately for us that wasn't an issue and I was able to snap pictures instead of worrying about getting goosed.



Doesn't he look like he's calling a meeting to order? Is this even a "he"?

The word "gaggle" suddenly made sense today.





These ducks didn't stick out at all...







OK, I'll admit it. I love their feet!
They just look so cute on their sleek bodies.
It's like they are wearing black rubber galoshes.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Summertime Nature Part Two....

Today is all about mushrooms.

The past few days we've been watching two mushrooms grow in our front yard and it's actually been quite entertaining. They seem to grow right in front of your eyes. Yesterday evening we pulled out the camera to capture a few shots to help us remember them.
Yep, like I said....whatever interests Miss K.



The larger one started out smaller than this one, just a few days ago.

Going in for a closer look....




The undersides always fascinate me.


Doesn't this look like soft draping fabric?


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Summertime Nature...

If you've been around long enough you already know that Miss K is a bit of a nature nut. Fortunately, we have quite a bit of it going on in our own yard. We live in a suburb that's been around for a while and we're fortunate to have one of the larger lots in our community. It backs up to a little creek, although I'm not really sure what qualifies as a creek so it may not be a technically correct term. Anyway, that's what I call it.

Now this area is not really that wide, but it does put a little distance between us and our back yard neighbors. In between these two streets you will find lots of critters. In fact, the other week a deer made an appearance. I have no clue where this deer lives, but I am pretty sure he does not live in this tiny patch of woods. I'm regretting that I did not have my camera handy, because in over 20 years of living here she was our first deer!

I was looking through my pictures of the past few months and have noticed how I've been influenced by my own child. I seem to snap pictures of things that she appreciates....and well, she takes my camera and snaps pictures of things she appreciates. This makes for quite a few pictures of flowers, bugs, mushrooms, animals, clouds, etc.

We're gearing back up for school, which we are starting on the 16th, and at the same time I'm getting back to my hobby of blogging. This coming week we'll be busy going through books, schedules, closets, etc. (Hey, we take back to school seriously here and I must have my closets in order to start the year off right!! Right??) For your viewing pleasure, I decided I would start with a week of nature pictures just giving you a glimpse of the world as people like K see it. In fact, she happened to snap these three photos.

Summertime nature...





Thursday, July 22, 2010

A little surprise....

The past few days we have had some good thunderstorms roll in during the nights. This was good, because it meant I didn't need to water my veggie garden. That saves me about 45 minutes. It also meant that I didn't have to go out in this horrible muggy heat and stand in the garden, so I chose to stay put right inside with the AC cranking and the fans blowing. That's what you need to do to survive around here during the "Muggies". OK...so really, that's what I NEED to do! Go ahead, call me a wimp. I don't care....much.

Anyway, it seems my fresh veggies were still stacking up on my counter. K would go outside and come in with a few(hundred) cucumbers and a ripe tomato every once in a while. Sometimes, Mike would go out, look around and walk back in and plop a handful of teeny grape tomatoes in my bowl. I would just look from my back window and see the plants still standing and that was good enough for me.

This morning I realized I had a whole tray full of big ripe tomatoes and I wasn't about to let those babies go bad. So, I gathered them and made the most delicious homemade spaghetti sauce. I even sent K out for some parsley, oregano and basil fresh off the plants. There is such an incredible feeling of satisfaction when cooking from your own garden. It also didn't hurt that around the dinner table the prevalent sound was "yummmm".

While the sauce was simmering, I decided to take a little inventory. I used up ALL my big tomatoes with the sauce. I have a little bowl of grape tomatoes to use, but I have some plans for those involving avocados and jalapenos. My jalapeno bowl is getting a little full, so I made plans to freeze them tomorrow. The cucumbers, WELL....I try not to think about the cucumbers. They are my "zucchini" this year. You know...the vegetable that just keeps coming and coming. Other than those pesky cucumbers, which I do love but can't manage to eat 6 a day, I was feeling a little on top of my game this evening. No veggie is going to rot on my watch!

When we came home from errands this evening I said to Mike, "Hey, meet me in the garden. We have a few minutes of light left and we should probably poke around. I hope we have some of those purple beans ready. I would like some for dinner tomorrow." hehehe...



There are purple beans out there, but it was too dark in the bean pole teepee that we made, so I'll get them tomorrow. Besides, I was too busy picking these veggies. Our peppers are finally turning red, which was exciting. Notice the cucumbers....sigh.....

However, this would be considered a nice harvest from our backyard garden, but NO....this was not all. In fact the picture below doesn't show it all. We had flashlights out there, but the mosquitoes chased us in the house before we could finish. The neighbors probably thought we were a tad loony if they were listening to us at all. "Squealing with delight" is the best way to describe the sounds heard from our garden this evening!


Guess, I need to get busy again.

Signed,
"No longer feeling on top of my game"

Thursday, July 8, 2010

it has begun....

Earlier this season I had a battle with creatures of the winged variety. Yes, the early bird was getting up before me and checking out the garden. I have no problem sharing for the most part....but I must draw the line on some things. I have been waiting since last summer for a nice, sun-ripened, homegrown tomato. Our plants are so full and their poor branches are sagging from the weight of large GREEN tomatoes. We bought three plants that produce the smaller cherry tomato variety. One reason I made sure to plant the cherry tomatoes was to tide me over until the big boys ripened. I waited and waited and was beyond excited to see a hint of pink on a few of the little cherry ones. I knew the time was coming and I'd be able to just pop that baby right in my mouth and squeeze out the juicy yumminess. Imagine my shock to come out one morning and find what was to be my very first tomato of the 2010 season pecked to pieces!

Ugh!!

Well, I quickly told myself it was ok. I figured this was some sort of testing of character or perhaps there was a lesson on patience that I should be gleaning from this...and I certainly didn't want to fail any test or opportunity to grow. Plus...there was another tomato that was just about ready! It was so close that I was sure another 24 hours would do the trick. I could wait...

Next day...it, too was pecked to pieces. I officially (well, posted on Facebook..that's official, right?) declared war and got some wonderful advice from friends. I didn't have to do anything because it seemed like my little feathered friend had left town overnight. I thought maybe word got out that I was about to go ugly on him and he packed his little bags and hit the road. (I didn't hurt him...I promise!!) Well, apparently he just went to visit his cousin to let my jets cool....because he's now back and busy pecking tomatoes that are just about ready.


So...this weekend netting is going up.


Nobody messes with my tomatoes!!


Here's a bowl full of the ones the little birdie missed along with some fresh basil picked from our garden.

It went into a veggie dish for dinner that the family declared a winner!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Cucumbers...

It's 101 degrees outside and I think it might as well be 200 degrees. I don't do well in 101 or 200 degree weather. Well, unless I have a nice ocean breeze blowing over me while I sit under a big beach umbrella and someone keeps bringing me frozen concoctions. However, since I'm at home and last time I looked we did not own beachfront property, I'm staying inside. Inside where the air condition is trying it's very best to blow cool air. I have fans blowing in several rooms and one can find some relief by standing directly in front of the fan...not that I keep doing that or anything.


This morning I went out early...thought I'd beat the heat...(hahahahahahaha NO)...and checked out the garden. When I brought in my basket of goodies, I decided that I could no longer ignore the cucumber "situation". You know what I mean. That's when the amount of cucumbers in the house exceeds the number of people in your family x a bazillion.


I kept saying I would make pickles, but I have to admit....I was just a tad intimidated. Sure I went out and bought supplies and all, even read some recipes online. In order to postpone the inevitable I went ahead and made several quarts of freezer pickles, which are yummy...but they are sweet. And we can only eat so many sweet pickles at a time. I had promised K that I would make some yummy pickles and I promised Mike that I wouldn't let the cucumbers rot.


Well, I decided today was the day to face the fear head on and get myself busy pickling. I had two recipes that I wanted to try. One recipe was for making refrigerator garlic dill spears and the other was using a package of Mrs. Wages pickling mix. I decided to make chips with that batch. The refrigerator recipe was the easiest. However, you have to store them in the fridge and eat them up in a month or so. That limits the amount I could get away with making. The downside of that recipe is waiting a week or so to even open the jars to try them! At least we can try the other kind in 24 hours to help keep our mind off of the spears.




I love hearing the pop that lets me know all is going well with my pickles and they are sealing. That is such a sweet, satisfying sound. It helps (a teeny tiny bit) lessen the discomfort of realizing that my kitchen is now 101 degrees.


Think I'll go stand in front of the freezer for a bit...need to check on those freezer pickles!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Sparrow Family...

K made a birdhouse a few years ago and has had it hanging on the pine tree ever since. We've had a couple of sparrow families move in and move out over the seasons, but I guess I never really took the time to just watch them.


This year, I made time. Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow work as a team. They built their nest together, took turns sitting on eggs, and now they are busy feeding the babies. I sat outside on the patio and watched them for about 15 minutes and discovered something. I thought having to feed newborn son #1 every two hours around the clock was rough. Well, these poor parents have to be near collapse due to complete and utter exhaustion. Well, unless they are wired differently then we are...and of course, I suspect they are.


Here's a glimpse of 15 minutes.....
(remember you can click on the photos to enlarge them...and some are worth it)

Here's momma sparrow.


She's giving the little whippersnappers something yummy to eat.



Daddy's turn to feed them.


Ah, momma is back with some tasty tidbit.


Here's Daddy again. I kid you not!! These are taken in order.
Look at those two hungry mouths.


Here he's telling me that very same thing. "Will you just look at these greedy little piggies, I mean birdies?"


Momma to the rescue with yet more food.

Then they left for a few minutes and I took the opportunity to change my angle...


"Hello out there? Are you my mother? Have any food?"


"Where did they go? Don't they know we're starving?"


"Help! We haven't eaten in like 3 minutes."


Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow seem to be doing a terrific job and they certainly know how to work as a team. However, they make me tired just watching them.

I wonder if they even know how awesome they are.



Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bounty

Yea, harvesting has begun!! We've been eating squash and cucumbers for a good week now.

The cukes are coming in like crazy. Tomorrow, I plan to try a freezer pickle recipe I found online. I wish I grew up on a farm and this kind of stuff didn't scare me....but it does!!


There are bushels of peppers ready to pick, so I'm hunting for pickled pepper ring recipes, too. Yet again, scaring myself silly. I figure I might as well jump right in and send myself right over the edge.


Oh, and to make it even more frightening, I'm venturing into gluten free baking. Oh, yes I am! This week I will be attempting chocolate zucchini muffins. Who knows, by the end of the summer I may no longer shake (and sweat!) when the mere thought of canning, preserving or gluten free baking enters my mind. It could happen!


You may notice there is a lot of green and yellow in the picture. One color is missing....RED! I have a pesky bird (or two or twenty) that is delighting in ripe tomatoes. MY ripe tomatoes!! The very ones that I have been watching and drooling over for weeks. I've gotten lots of good suggestions and I've declared war. I will win! My plan of making homemade spaghetti sauce and salsa hinges on my victory.


I can almost taste it...

Sunday, June 6, 2010

garden time...

This year our garden has taken off with a bang. It's amazing to go out there each day to see the changes. Last year the garden was lame and that was sad. This year, we just keep on smiling.
I find it hard to believe the squash has only been in the ground for 3 weeks. We'll be eating fresh by the end of this week.

Just thought I'd share a few (hundred) photos of our vegetable garden.


I didn't get any close up of the bush beans over there on the right, but they are doing well and are covered with blossoms.


Patty Pan Squash


Our Squash bed


Summer Squash


Zucchini


Cucumbers


Anyone have a good pickle recipe?


We just added some bamboo poles for the cukes to keep growing.


Hungarian Wax Peppers


Jalapenos


Pole Beans
These beans will be purple, but they turn green when cooked.


Tomato Berry plant
Don't they look like little green strawberries?


We have 16 tomato plants this summer.


I'm hoping for bunches and bunches of tomatoes.
Remind me I said that come August....



How is your garden growing?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Saying goodbye.....

Saying goodbye to a Faithful, Furry, Friend is never easy.

K has been drawing to express her feelings.


And she designed this stone for his memorial.


We will miss you!



Tuesday, May 25, 2010

VEGGIES....

I love when things just happen to fall together like they were planned. It just so happens that I have a couple of veggie posts that I planned to make over the next week AND today I came upon a wonderful veggie loving blog that is having a contest!! :) A contest? Where? What? Well, keep reading. Details are below.

First, I have two words...

ROASTED BROCCOLI....
or asparagus, or cauliflower, or tomatoes, or....
OK, maybe that was more then two words. I have to tell you though, you are seriously missing out if you don't roast some veggies and try them. What's that you say? You don't like broccoli....well, try it anyway. K doesn't care for broccoli, but she scarfs these little nuggets up like she's fighting for them. Of course, that could be because everyone is standing around the pan grabbing the best ones.
Here, let me show you what they look like fresh out of the oven....


Um...well, the pan WAS full and I HAD just pulled it out minutes before. Yes, they are that yummy and yes, I'm ashamed (proud) to admit the family did stand around the pan grabbing broccoli and popping them in their mouths. How barbaric!

I, personally, do not care for asparagus. However, roast those little spears and I'm there burning my fingers. Who can wait for a fork? Not I! I can't explain it, but roasting is the way to go. (it's also easy and we all know easy in cooking is a welcomed thing!)

Clean your raw veggies and prep them for cooking. Drizzle a little olive oil over them and add some salt and pepper. You can add a little fresh minced garlic, or garlic powder...a dash of red pepper flakes or any other seasoning that floats your boat. Usually, I stick to the basics. Spread them out on a pan and pop them in the oven. I generally roast my veggies between 350 and 400 degrees. Why the range? Well, I make it work with whatever else I am cooking. If there is nothing in the oven, I turn it to 400. Then roast them for 10-20 minutes, depending on the size of veggie and the temp of the oven. You want the veggies to get a little brown.

That's a good thing. I promise!!

Be prepared to always roast your veggies. My whole family gets disappointed now if I serve steamed veggies!

NOW, about that contest!!!!

Check out Leslie Loves Veggies. (just click on the name) She's having a giveaway for a cookbook called "You Won't Believe It's Gluten Free". Then take the time to look around over there. She has tons of reviews and several contests in the works. Good luck!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Moving in....

K loves all things animal. So, she was beyond thrilled to catch this sight the other day.

Looking out our backdoor she noticed that there seemed to be some activity going on in her birdhouse. Being the bird lover that she is, she quickly ran out front and cut our dead grass in the garden.

She made a little pile in the middle of the yard and sat back watching.


Yes, Mr. Sparrow did use it for nesting material. Mrs. Sparrow is safely snug inside and the Mister is now making food runs for his sweetie. K couldn't be happier.