Tuesday, May 19, 2015

What A Little Rain Does For Plants

Until today, we hadn't had rain for about a month and in the spring, that's a really big deal.  Usually, we have pretty wet springs and everything is wet and damp and the grass is going crazy and I can't keep up with the mowing.  But not this spring.

I've been watering with the hose since we don't have water restrictions, but I really like a good rain every so often.  Rainwater just does something to plants that the hose cannot do, no matter how much water you give.

When it was over, the light was just right to take some pictures of my plants that I've had in for about a week.  The colors are truly as rich as what I was looking at!

For the past few  years, I've done a lot of hanging baskets.  I've learned that you have to make them full from the beginning or they look silly.  In the past, I would put a couple of plants, imagining that they would spread and fill out but they looked sparse for most of the summer.  Now, I spend a little more money, but I like the way they look early in the summer.

These are hanging beside the greenhouse.  The flowers are something called "scented flowers" with no explanation as to what they are.  They are pretty and I like the smell, but I have no idea what they are.  I put some vinca vine in with them.

Next, we have a few other hanging baskets that have some Sweet William, Lobelia (that amazing purple-blue stuff!) and maybe some of the scented flowers, depending on the basket.

I like the richness of these colors so much, I thought I'd share a close up!

The obsession with the purple/blue color came from a month I spent in Belgium a while back.  It seemed like every house had window boxes that were just falling over with what must have been Lobelia or something like it.  For a while, I couldn't find it when I came back and I was always on a quest for that color.  It's not something you find a lot of.  Last summer,, I found it and didn't get enough and when I wanted more, it was already gone!

I made sure to scoop it right up this time!

Then, we have the old stand bys that come back again and again.  This winter weather we had must have been perfect for the lilacs because they are all in bloom everywhere I go and you can actually smell them as you drive down the road!

Lilacs can take a serious beating and come right back.  This bush is older than I am and we've chopped it down a few times and it just pops right back up.

The crabapple looks fantastic this time of year and it smells even better.  The rain wasn't harsh enough to strip the flowers, so it still looks so nice.

The mint that mostly behaves itself is coming back.  People rant about mint being very invasive but in my yard, it isn't. I put it in this container and it's very happy.  Gwenstopher really liked to sit in this bucket and lose her mind in the mint, like I couldn't see her.

And, since my childhood, Buttercups have been the telltale sign of spring in this yard.  Most see them as a weed, like dandelions, but I don't mind them in the lawn.  Do you know the old adage they used to tell kids about Buttercups?  Hold one under your chin and if your chin glows yellow, you like butter.  Does anyone tell kids things like this anymore?

I'll leave you with one of my favorite views.  We replaced the boards that had rotted on the sides and put on these hangers last summer.  3 on each side.  I love them!!

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Monday, May 18, 2015

A Radish Inspired Meal

After the glorious bounty of pretty radishes I grew last month, I planted a new kind called "white icicle".  Somewhere, I read that they are also called Daikon and are Asian.  I don't know a lot about radishes, but I thought it would be fun to try.

They sprouted right away and went complete crazy.  Last week, I noticed some little white parts poking up, and I've found that radishes are ready when they push themselves to the surface of the soil, I decided to pick a few.  I expected them to be thin and small.

Imagine my shock when a few of them were far longer than any carrots I've grown! 

I was also fooled by the greens.  Some of them had short greens while a few were screaming LOOK AT ME, so I was really surprised when I pulled the one with the biggest greens and found it so much smaller than one with not a lot of greens.

As soon as I picked them, they started to get a little brown looking and I wondered what they'd be like after a day or so.

And what the heck was I going to do with them?  I can only use them so much before k-ster is like ENOUGH, and I don't want to smell like radishes every day.

The packet says "mild, crisp flavor" so I thought maybe I could sneak them in in more ways than the last round.  If mild means blowing your tongue right out of your mouth with the powerful spice that theses little babies contain then mild it is.  I couldn't eat more than a bite of the raw piece I took without thinking my esophagus would be ruined for the day.

Off to the interwebs I went, in search of what to do with white radishes.

I kept coming to pickled recipes and I thought that sounded pretty good.  I figured the vinegar would help remove the sharpness or at least the dirty radish taste that I often find with radishes.

When I was at my sister's house a few weeks ago, we had the traditional pulled pork sandwiches that I love the way she makes.  She added pickles as an option for the sandwich which I thought was nuts but she assured me I'd like it.  I LOVED IT!!

I thought maybe I'd make crockpot pork and then make a sort of radish coleslaw with the pickled flavor of the radishes as an option.  I had some Swiss chard to use up and I mixed in the radish greens from the radishes I used for the pickle.

I also found that if I peeled the radishes with a carrot peeler, it took off the outer layer which was slightly thicker than I expected.  Inside, they really were pure white.

So, here's what I did.  I had a recipe for the pickle/slaw but I had to change some things out of necessity.

Pickled Radish Slaw:

5 white radishes, peeled and sliced as you'd like.  I did thin "coins" but the recipes suggested matchsticks.
half of a bag of pre-cut cole slaw veggies (carrots, cabbage and broccoli) because I had it left over from the Chinese Egg Roll casserole.

Pour 1/4 cup of rice vinegar and 2 T. sugar over the veggies and sprinkle with a little salt.  Mix and let sit in the refrigerator for as long as you can.  I did the entire afternoon.

Mix together 1.5 T. olive oil, cayenne pepper to your liking, juice of one lime, 2 green onions (sliced thinly) about 2T. chopped parsley.

Pour out the vinegar mixture and pour in the new mixture with the green onions.  Let it sit a while.

Pulled Pork Sandwiches:

A large pork butt or shoulder
barbeque sauce of your choice

Put them together in the crockpot for the day, until the pork is easy to pull apart.  I added a little more barbeque sauce when I took out all of the pork because I hadn't put as much in the crockpot as I should have.


I slice the stalk of the chard, and the thicker parts of the radish greens and saute them with garlic in olive oil for about 5-8 minutes.  Then throw in all of the leafy part of the greens, chopped as you like.  Stir them around and put the cover on the pan until they wilt.  Add a little salt.   I sometimes add vinegar but I didn't want to ruin the effect of the pickle/slaw.

The rolls are courtesy of www.annies-eats.com and they are the best "hamburger" style roll I've ever had. I haven't bought a nasty, white, store bought hamburger roll in the 2-3 years since I've know about her Light Brioche Buns recipe.

In the picture, I had the Radish Pickle/Slaw on the side but I put some in the sandwich and WOW.  Definitely amazing.

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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Making Chinese Egg Roll Casserole

I have my usual stand bys for making quick meals that don't take a lot of fancy preparing or weird ingredients, but every so often, I come across another one to add to the repertoire.  I give you:

Chinese Egg Roll Casserole

I found this idea on instagram the other day and it sounded so good I thought about it all day and decided to go home and make it.  It was really good but my version didn't taste as much like an egg roll as I expected.  Probably because I didn't use enough soy sauce but I don't like too much, so I was light handed with it.

My version:

A package of ground turkey
A package of cole slaw veggies ready to go (without the mayonnaise) (or slice up cabbage, carrots and broccoli)
a little soy sauce
1 green onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
rice or noodles for serving
spices that interest you

The original recipe called for using breakfast sausage all taken out of the casing and ground up.  I didn't think I'd like the spices in that, so I just used ground turkey and some spices that I thought would add good flavor, especially some cayenne pepper.

I browned the turkey in a little bit of olive oil and added the green onion and garlic.  When it was all browned, I tossed in the cole slaw mix and let it cook for 5 minutes.  Then I added some soy sauce.

I served it over brown rice.
We liked it but k-ster and I both said we wouldn't associate it with an egg roll.  I liked the vegetables and because they were only cooked for a few minutes, they still had some crispness.  We both added a little more soy sauce.

I had a really hard time finding the package of cole slaw mix this time! In my grocery store, it had always been over with the packages of spinach.  They've rearranged things and it was in the middle of weird produce, like leeks and chard and not with the prepackaged things.

I'll definitely make it again and maybe serve it over noodles or lo mein noodles next time.  I might even try it with breakfast sausage to see if that makes a difference in flavor.  It was super quick and different.

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Friday, May 8, 2015

The Creamsicle Top Dilemma

When I first started sewing knits last summer, I found this fabric that I thought would make a very trendy, awesome top that I would wear forever.  I loved the challenge of working with stripes and I thought the colors, pink and orange were fantastic.

It reminded me of a creamsicle.  I realize that would be orange and white, but it's my blog and I get to make things up if I so choose.

I wanted it in long sleeve, but I didn't have enough fabric.

Ok, let's be honest, whether I had enough fabric or not, I did one of my signature moves and would have screwed it up anyway.  I cut the top of the sleeve off the pattern because I thought it was just for the short sleeve and ALMOST cut the fabric too.

I figured it out just in time and that was when I realized that I didn't have enough fabric to do the long sleeves the right way!

I was kind of sad because I thought it would be my go to top for the fall, probably every Friday.  During the school year, I get into the habit of wearing the same "uniform" every Friday.  This would be great until it got really cold.

Alas, short sleeves it was.

I thought I had done a fabulous job, even using a double needle for the top stitching, but the neckline has the most annoying little wave in the middle.
To the untrained eye, it would probably pass as completely unnoticable, but to my over trained eye, it's unacceptable.  I couldn't be bothered ripping out the neckline, so I gave it to good will and decided to carry on with my life.

Without a creamsicle shirt to wear on Fridays.

And since I had a little fabric left over, I put a little skirt on a onesie for this little peanut.

She's thrilled.

Fast forward to a month ago or so.  I found a remnant of the very same fabric and I couldn't help but buy it!  I figured if I combined it with what I had left over from my first attempt, I could finally make the long sleeved version I was so excited about.

Since it was a remnant, I knew it was less than a yard but I was pretty sure it would be enough.

I was so very sad to discover that I didn't actually have anything but a few scraps left.  However, I laid out the fabric and the pattern and tried it several ways and determined it would juuuuuuust barely fit.

So, I cut out the sleeves (long sleeves!) And I cut out the back.

And even though I had already checked it all out, I didn't have enough fabric to cut the front.

I KNOW!!!!!!!

In a shocking twist of fate, this week, I found my original shirt. I hadn't sent it off to good will.  I packed it away for the spring, to deal with it in warmer weather.

And then I had a BRILLIANT idea.  Since I'm not happy with that wavy neckline or the short sleeves, I could rip out the neckline, take off the front and use it for the new one I'm cutting.  And do the neckline correctly on the long sleeve version.

But, will it really all match up?  Is it worth it?  Can I get away with a slightly loose neckline?

And really, what am I going to do with 2 sleeves and a back cut out of the fabric I have?


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Sunday, May 3, 2015

That Time I Was An Upholsterer

Here on Aunt Mildred's porch, I make a lot of things that surprise my friends and neighbors.  But I have a secret.  A lot of the time, I even surprise myself!

A teacher in my school got wind of my supposed sewing skills and asked if I could do an ottoman cover for her.  Before I even had a chance to look very worried and say I wasn't sure, she said she had a cover someone made a while back and I could use that as a template.

How could I say no?  Especially when she said it was rectangular and straightforward.  No round shape with tucks and scariness.

I said I'd give it a whirl.

I began by completely ripping apart her old one.  And as I did it, I kept wondering if I had told her I would be doing that.  And I took the piping from the old one, so there was no going back.

I loved the fabric choice.   She really scored a deal because this was from the same collection of fabric that someone brought to school back in the fall, so she only had to pay me to get this snazzy new cover.

I just bought Wonder Clips recently to use for binding quilts so I will stop stabbing myself with pins.  They worked BEAUTIFULLY with this fabric and even though they are really small, they held the thickness of this fabric really well.  And I like that they stay in place even as I move the fabric and bump the machine and stuff.

The hardest part for me was the top.  Getting the piping on there was a little tricky around the corners.  I don't remember ever doing piping before but it was pretty much a breeze.

The one thing that I know I did wrong was cut the strips to cover the piping a little too small for comfort so I cut another set of strips.  It would have worked but I would have been really frustrated.

I was pretty happy with the way I tucked the piping in at the top.  On the next layer, I did something funky and I don't have a picture.  I wasn't proud of that tuck but no one else will probably notice.

The pleats were really easy when I used the original as a template to fold them.  Each one is slightly different because this was the first time I did pleats, but now that I know how they work, I think they would be easy again.  There was a pleat on each corner only.  Again, to the untrained eye, the difference on each corner won't be noticeable.

I think this was my favorite pleat.  Just enough room at the top without overlap and not too much space.

This is just sitting on a box in my house to make sure it all looked right.  I did a nice, wide hem, like the original.

And here is it in its natural environment.  I think it looks fantastic, if I do say so myself!

When I brought it in to her, I said "oh, did you want the original?"  No one ever does, so I figured she'd say no.

When she said she would, I almost dropped dead.  "You realize it's in pieces, right?"

She said she'd still like to have it, so I bagged up all of the scraps and gave them to  her.  She later told me she had no idea why she said that and I could  keep the pieces if I'd like to use them for a future template.  Since each ottoman is really its own shape, it wouldn't work, so I told her to keep it.

So, while my serger is misbehaving yet again, I'm still making my sewing room a beehive of activity.

Do you ever take on random projects that you've never done and hope you can wing it?

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Keeping All Of the Words A Secret

At the end of every school year, I take a survey among my students to find out what they loved, what they hated and what they tolerated.  With the advent of online surveys, I find that more and more, kids really let loose and tell all.

Sometimes, I think I give these surveys more for my own entertainment than anything else.  And now, I hope they are for your entertainment!

These quotes are verbatim, not censored or checked for spelling, realistic suggestions or comprehensibility.  These are my favorites from the hundreds of students I've taught.  The colored text is all me.

What was your favorite thing about learning French this year?

My favorite thing about learning French this year was that we got to learn another language and learning another language stretches your mind and makes you a better learner.  Yes, A+ for you, but you realize this is anonymous and you won't get real points, right?

the accent marks. I like that if you forget the accent mark its not a real word  Yeah, that's not really how I explained it, but I'm glad you get that accent marks are important to the spelling.

My favorite thing I learned in French was the colors I liked the colors because I like to tell my friends random colors.   Your life must have been very boring before you could tell them random colors.  Glad I could help.

My favorite part of learning French is when we talk back ad fourth in French it like we're having a weird conversation and actually it's fun to.   I completely agree!

When it comes to speaking French, what do you know you're good at?

I am very well at pernounsing the acent marks  Ahh you must be friends with the accent fiend from above. 

I know that I can keep calm,I know all the numbers and I do not have to worry about next year.   This is very Zen, right?

My favorite thing in about learning French is learning how to count in French. 1-10 was easy but it was much more harder. Now I can see how high I can get by counting in French. I can tell the date in French much easier now.   I often wonder just how high anyone can get by counting in French.  Do you tell the date easier after you're high from all the counting?

What could I do to make learning French easier?

If the kids get it right a few times I give the candy and shorter words Shorter words and rotten teeth.  Is your father a dentist, by any chance?
 Put people in groups for all the advanced kids and all the not so good kids  Yeah, they stopped this in like the 1990s, but thanks for advocating for segregation.

I wold take them to France for one week to help them see what it is like and all the cultures there.   Clearly you've been getting high counting with your friend from above. 

Let my students copy what I say Basically, this is what teaching is, my friend.  Did you think  was keeping all of the words to myself?

Keep trying  I completely agree!  Wait, should I keep trying or should the students keep trying?

Saying something in French and see if the kids new what I was saying Well, yes, that's what they taught us in teacher school.

i wouldnt be teaching french Probably my favorite answer of the entire survey.

I would go into the food and how to describe food (like fried) more. If only I had realized the one thing holding you back was not knowing how to say fried food.

Things Well, you've got me, I have no witty response.

Get somebody to do all my work for me except for teaching.  Umm, I think we call them students?

What was your least favorite thing about learning French?  (Bear with me as I cry and cry and cry here.)

My least favorite thing in French to lean is the how the do there math.  Well, "there/their" math is just like ours, so....

When I had to answers questions  Ahh, so you'd like to speak French in statements only, I see.
The words  Have you met the student just above you?  Why don't you two get together and create a new language with no words and no questions.

The real talking like Jem appele and words like that.   I didn't realize we were doing "fake talking".  And it's Je m'appelle for the 45636th time.

Learning what to say back and how to start a conversation. It was boring to me.  Ahh yes, communication is so very boring.

When I had to lean most of the words that was my least part I really didn't like it.  I see that you didn't like most of the words, but could you share a few you that you did like?

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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Bird's Nests With Greens For Supper

I made the bird's nest recipe that I found in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver one time and we didn't like it.  It just had no flavor.  I must have left something out, but I wasn't interested in trying it again.

Recently, I have seen a couple of variations on that theme and I wanted to see if maybe there was a more flavorful way to make it.

This past week has been my April vacation and I managed to spend it in a most un-vacation like manner and have felt strapped for time all week.  I worked on an online graduate course that sucked up each evening, I taught a class 3 mornings with a friend of mine and I ran around playing catch up with things I hadn't been able to do before the vacation week.

I need a week of vacation now, please.

When I got up this morning, my first thought was that I have to make supper (I never want to go out on school nights, it's just a rule I can't break) and I had no idea what to make.  All of my quick standards are getting pretty tired and I needed something else.

I had this gorgeous bunch of radishes from my garden that I knew I wanted to use, but that was about it.
In order to get k-ster to eat radishes, I have to be creative and if I cook them and add them to something, he's fine with it.

When I'm feeling rushed for time, something about reading a recipe adds a whole extra layer of frustration and stress to my day.  I prefer a meal I can throw together on my own.

Which is ridiculous because whipping up something off the top of my head ends up taking much more concentration, time and creativity than reading a recipe would have!

As the day went on, I somehow concocted the following plan and what a fabulous dish it was.  My photographer is currently on assignment so you'll have to put up with my haphazard photography skills.*

Here's what I did.

Thinly slice the radishes and chop up the greens.

Saute the radishes in olive oil with some garlic for a while.  Maybe 10 minutes over medium heat.

Chop up some chard and put the thick part of the stalk in with the radishes and garlic.

When the radishes and chard are looking slightly translucent, add in the chard greenery and some spinach.  A lot of spinach, actually.  I used almost the entire 16 ounce container.  Spinach is tricky because it cooks down into just about nothing.

Stir the greens around and when they start to really wilt, crack in the eggs.  I used 5, 4 around the edge and one in the center.  In some recipes, you actually make a little well so it's like the egg is surrounded by a nest.  I was afraid the egg would stick to the bottom.

Plus, once I cracked them into the pan, I didn't have any control over where they went!

Put the cover on and turn the heat down so they can steam.  If you're worried about having enough water for steam, you could add an ice cube, but I found that there was plenty of moisture from the greens.

I was concerned that the eggs wouldn't be cooked, so I left them for longer than a person needs to.   Like probably 15-20 minutes when 10 would probably have sufficed.  They were like hard boiled eggs, which was fine with me.  K-ster said he likes them a little runnier but they were good.

While all of that was happening, I used some of these bagels that I made the other day to make garlic toast.
This picture is the only one I seem to have of the bagels, from the getting ready to boil them phase.  Trust me, they are cooked now and brown!

I used 3 of them and cut them in half and then small pieces.  I made a quick spread of melted butter, parsley and garlic and spread it on each piece and then cooked it for a while.  Maybe 15 minutes.

I prefer to cut my garlic bread into the sizes I want before I put the butter mixture and toast them. 

When all was ready, I added some Mrs. Dash hot seasoning to the nest of eggs and a little salt.  I also added the ham because every time I said we were having eggs and greens, k-ster said "green eggs and ham?"

I was worried that the flavor might be lacking, so I thought the ham might give it a little salt.  And it did!  We also added a little parmesan on top.

I will definitely make this again.

I'm toying with the idea of maybe using a couple of pieces of bacon instead of the ham.

Another good variation would be to add some balsamic to the greens.  I'm not sure what that would do to the eggs though.

I like using the radish greens and chard because I think it adds some substance to the spinach.

*I don't have a photographer.

How would you jazz up this recipe?  Leave your comments here or on my facebook page!

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