Thursday, June 18, 2015

 I've always wanted a lilac bush in my yard.  Next year I am going to bake cookies and knock on my neighbor's door to barter lilacs for cookies.  In the meantime, I am making due with our glorious shrub rose bush in the front garden.  It started blooming this week and the scent wafts through the front windows and stops you in your tracks. 
And Houston...we have pea pods!!!  We planted peas in a different area of the garden.  In last year's spot, they sprouted, waved a little white flag and shriveled up.  I don't know if they like this new area better or if we improved our soil.  Last fall we emptied all the garden containers into the soil and added grass clippings and all the leftover potting soil.  Whatever it was, I am thrilled with things so far.  We had an earlier start this year too because Dave's bowling field trip was a month earlier.  We're also going to get a great raspberry yield I think.  Last year we didn't get any because Lopi chewed off all the branches in the spring.  Since then we've been pushing them through the fence as they've developed so she can't get to them.  I water every day and am eagerly awaiting the first berries!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Veggies--but not from our garden...

I started working on our garden in the beginning of May.  Dave turned it all up for me and we were able to plant peas and green beans early.  We bought tomato, eggplant, butternut squash and pepper plants and put them in shortly after.  Then Dave's parent's sent over a bunch of kohlrabi and cucumber seedlings.  We started zucchini and spaghetti squash from seed and just got those in the ground this week.  We're trying the tomatoes and all the vine veggies in a different area of the yard so we can use the garden proper for the peas, beans, kohlrabi, peppers and eggplant.  We also have a raspberry bush on the garden fencing. 

Everything is looking so much more promising than last year!  I have turned into my dad because I find myself daily wandering around in the yard just looking at the garden progress.  He did that every day when he came home from work.  We'd hear the van pull into the garage and it was always a good 15 minutes before he actually came into the house because he was out looking at the garden.  This morning I was out first thing with Lopi and this frog scared the bejesus out of me!  I didn't really see him but I saw something moving at my feet!
While I was snooping around the garden, Lopi started barking and pawing at this poor turtle.  This is the first one we've seen in the yard this year. 
Dave went fishing this afternoon and I had supper waiting for him when he got home.  I had 2 store-bought zucchinis that I peeled, hollowed, brushed with garlic olive oil and salted before folding them up in foil with some rosemary cuttings.
I'd been marinating some chicken thighs all afternoon.  We skewered them up with mushrooms, onions and red peppers.  Any more I always buy chicken thighs because they are cheaper and are more moist and flavorful.  We got this recipe from the honey stand at the state fair.  The marinade is 1/2 c. oil, 1/3 c. honey, 1/3 c. soy sauce, 2 crushed garlic cloves and black pepper. 
I  got very lucky with my husband because he knows how to grill.  There is nothing like grilled veggies and meat.
My sister and her family are coming next weekend so we can all go to the water park at Valley Fair.  I put together 32 little apple hand pies using apple slices I had in my freezer.  They came from my sister in law's acreage and my mother in law sliced, vacuum sealed and froze them.  I made 2 little cobblers out of the remainder of the apples and the scraps of the pastry.
Num num!

Saturday, June 13, 2015


The Ramsey County Fair starts July 15th and I have a few more things I want to finish up to enter.  I start working on fair projects in January because by then all my Christmas projects are over and done with and because I just can't wait for fair season.  A new category I'm going to enter this year is embroidered kitchen towels.  I've made quite a few of these as wedding shower gifts because it is tradition.  My mother says that a measure of prestige in her day was how many sets of embroidered flour sack towels you got as shower gifts.
Here are the two towels I stitched to enter.  Colonial Patterns put out these transfers in their Stitcher's Revolution line.  They also make the classic day-of-the-week-kittens-doing-ironing-and-laundry transfers, which are vintage and charming in and of themselves, but I just LOVE these new designs.  I have at least 20 envelopes of pattern transfers in a variety of designs.  The last time my nieces were here, we worked on these together.
I think the honey bear in this one kind of looks like TED the bear from the movie!  ;)   Sublime Stitching is another company that has some awesome transfer designs and supplies but I have never ordered from them.  I looked just tonight and they even have Moomin designs!
Colonial Patterns also puts out these colorful vintage inspired sturdy towels with these woven stripes.  I bought a whole slew of these with Joann coupons when I still lived in Iowa and they are a pleasure to work with.  I've bought up plain flour sack towels here and there when I see them and over time, they discolor.  These striped ones don't and look so crisp and sharp.
I really do enjoy stitching these because they are like coloring books for adults.  This is my box of flour sack crayons!  My mother bought this for me as a kit of floss/cards/case when I was around 12 or so kind of because I begged and pleaded for it.  She didn't want to buy it for me because she was just sure I'd use it for about 10 minutes and move on to something else.  At the time I wanted it for friendship bracelets and other small projects but I've continuously used it and added to it ever since.
This is a shoebox sized tote of floss grouped by color in snack size zip loc bags that a co-worker gave me.  It was his grandmother's and he gave it to me when they were dealing with her estate.
This is a literal shopping bag of floss that my aunt gave me left over from school projects.  I've taken this bag to girlfriend get togethers and my two nieces have dug through it looking for friendship bracelet colors and we haven't made a dent in it yet.  I have enough supplies to stitch flour sack towels til the end of time!
On the garden front, the peony bush my dad brought us is starting to bloom.  It is a good thing I took pictures of it when I did because we had heavy rain the next day which knocked all the petals off the blooms!
Here are the glorious pansies he planted around our tree in the front yard.  Pansies have always been one of my favorite flowers and I love seeing them every morning when Lopi and I go outside.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Dried Chives

 From chive chaos...
 ...comes order...
...and eventually dried chives!  That is an 7.5 oz old minced garlic jar.  I brought in an armload of chives and cut the blossoms off and picked out the dead pieces and minced the viable stalks and still had a bowlful so I was amazed at how small they became.  The jar still smelled slightly of garlic so I'm hoping they'll be flavorful through the winter.  I do like how green they still are and look forward to using them when the outdoors are no longer green.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Beautiful Beans (and bags!)

We made fajitas for supper last night and I found the best recipe for refried beans from scratch.  My friend Michelle showed me how to make them years ago but I've never been thrilled by my results.  They are served to you in piles in any Mexican restaurant but I've never been able to get the flavor and creamy texture right.
Oregano is an herb I always associated with Italian food and was surprised to find it in the fajita recipe we always use.  I bought that box of oregano in Greece when I backpacked years ago.  It was used in everything there and was my culinary souvenir from that country.  I've long since used up the contents but I keep filling up the box with bulk oregano from Cossetta's.  I got that wooden citrus reamer in Denmark at a viking ship museum of all places.
 Here are my lovely picked over dry pinto beans.  I love dry beans because they are CHEAP and you can feed an army with a single bag.  This recipe makes the perfect amount and I learned right away that I was cooking too many beans with too few aromatics.  And I love that you don't have to soak them overnight first.
 I threw my beans in my small crack pot for 2-3 hours and used 1 tsp of dried oregano instead of the epazote sprigs. Oregano again!  Who knew?!  For the fat I used 1/2 lard and 1/2 bacon fat.  DEE-lish!  Everything in this recipe is stuff you already have in your pantry.
I finished my beaded bag tonight and took a terrible picture of it.  It was just getting dark outside so I had to take a picture of it under a lamp.  I used all but a dozen or so beads and 2 yards of thread.  Stash busted!

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Fun With Beads

 In true Katie fashion, I worked on some impulsive bead knitting this week.  This almost finished project will be another drawstring pouch.  I used up 5 skeins of size 5 hoarded perle cotton in a beautiful variegated colorway of soft mints, teals, and aquas.  I also used 2 containers of size 8/0 seed beads I ordered years ago from Earthfaire but never used.  I can't even remember what specific project I ordered them for.
 This has knitted up very fast with this size of thread and size 00 needles.  The beads are larger than what I'd usually use (10/0 or 11/0) for bead knitting but I like the effect.  The beads really give it some texture and dimension, and they are not clear but pearlized so you can see the mottled colors of the fabric around them.
Here is the wrong side of the work where you can see the pools of color.  Hopefully I will finish this tomorrow but first I have to finish my baby booties.  That shower is on Saturday.  I'm such a terrible procrastinator that I will even put off knitting with knitting!


This week I was clearing and reclaiming some of our backyard to use for gardening.  Before I hoed the area up, I cut all the mint that was growing there.  There is still plenty out there and I'm sure all the stuff I cut will come back.
 So here is my bowl full of mint (with just a hint of grass mixed in) as I brought it in from the garden.
 I picked off and washed all the leaves and spun them out.  I got 2 full salad spinner bowls full of just mint leaves.
 I got this food dehydrator for $10 on sale a couple years ago at Aldi.  It is a one temperature no-fan simple machine, nothing like the fancy ones I've seen on different blogs.  I'd never used this before so I was kind of excited to get it out of the box.  There are 5 trays and they were all loaded similarly to this.  You don't want to overlap things but I also wanted to do all my leaves in one go.

It only took a few hours and this is what they looked like when dry.
All the dried leaves fit into one quart jar.  I made my first cup of tea with the leaves and it was quite tasty.  I am going to keep drying the mint leaves as they grow and drink the tea over the winter.  Next I want to try drying some chives!