Catching-Up on July

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These pictures are kind of old pictures now.  I started this post almost a month ago and then never finished it.  I actually took a bunch of pictures today to write a new post and it is insane how much growth there has been in the garden since these pictures were taken in July.  I contemplated just deleting these pictures and starting over but opted to keep some of it so I had a quick post to have for a record of this summer’s garden.

Hopefully I’ll get the new pictures posted soon to show the progress.  It seems crazy based on the pictures above, but we have been picking cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini (of course) and have already made a big batch of pesto with our basil.  Like usual, August will be a our big month and so far, things look good.

Our peas and some greens are already done for the season and strawberry season seems like a lifetime ago now!  We planted 25 strawberry plants this year and we have maybe harvested 15 strawberries! haha. I am not sure why we didn’t get many strawberries but I am glad that they are perennials. Maybe when they come back next year, they will be stronger and more productive. Because our strawberries were such a failure, we went strawberry picking at Nourse Farm.  The family farm has been there and continuously running since 1722! It’s super low-key and the people there are so nice.  We picked more than 10 lbs. of strawberries and made strawberry rhubarb pie and tons of strawberry “fruit roll-ups.”

I used a combination of a few recipes for the roll-ups but essentially you take about 4 cups of cut-up strawberries, 4 tablespoons of lemon juice and a quarter to half of a cup of sugar and blend it.  I used my dehydrator but you could do it in the oven as well with a silpat tray.  Just cook them on the lowest setting until they are no longer wet.  The kids love them.  You can adjust the lemon and sugar to your taste depending on how sweet or sour your strawberries are.  I have a few pounds of strawberries left that I hope to use for more when school starts but next year, I will definitely buy more strawberries in season. (Unless of course ours actually produce!)

Summer is flying by.  I need time to slow down.  I’m going to do my best to really embrace these next four weeks.  I really hope we get some summer weather, too.  It’s been so cool, I haven’t even wanted to swim in the pool and that is so unlike me. xo

P.S. – See the Queen??  She’s alive and laying!

 

Apple Blossoms

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After we sold our house that was located in the downtown area of our town, we rented for a couple of years before we were ready to buy again.  When we started the process of looking for houses, we came to look at this house just to get a sense of what was out there.  It was on the street where our first house was so we knew we liked the street, but the house was a little out of our budget.  We actually said to the kids when we went to look at it, “we are NOT buying this house, we are just looking.”  To be honest, because of that, we sort of flew through the house and really only took a cursory look at the backyard.  We put offers in on two others houses and we were outbid.  It was a really frustrating process.  Like all homebuyers, I would just keep looking at what was available everyday.  One morning, I started thinking about this house and thinking about if there was any way that we could make it work.  A couple of hours later my mom called me and said, “I have been thinking about that house on Cross Street, have you thought about putting in a low offer on that house?” It was so weird that we were both thinking about it because it wasn’t even in the mix.  The next day Sean and I put in an offer and to this day, I am surprised by the fact that it all worked out.  But like I said, when we looked at it, we looked so quickly that we didn’t even walk around the yard.  All that to say, one of the best surprises of this house was the apple and pear trees.  Sean and I had always talked about wanting fruit trees and the fact that the house had mature, healthy trees was such a happy surprise.  We have since added two more apple trees but it will be years before they bear fruit.  We have been mostly hands off with the trees since we moved in but this year we are hoping to learn more about caring for them and hopefully we will learn how to help them thrive.  xo

Seedlings

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It’s the weekend!  Hoping that these seedlings can get some more of this sun this weekend.  We will be putting the pumpkins, arugula and a couple of the flower varieties in the ground.  The weather looks good for this weekend but it looks like we will be back to rain for most of next week so I think I will let everything else stay inside for a while longer. This week, I planted Sweet Pea flowers on the fence between the pool and the garden.  I have been so inspired by Floret flower farm over the past year and as I mentioned, we will be incorporating a lot of flowers for cutting into our garden.  I think that it is going to be really fun for the girls because as much as they like our veggies, they are infinitely more interested in having flowers in their bedrooms.  I have absolutely no idea if the Sweet Peas (or anything else) will flourish but I am following all of Floret’s advice and crossing my fingers that we have a wall of flowers this spring.  We have 15 different kinds of cut flowers seeded right now and we are also going to try and grow Dahlias this year.  Dahlias are tricky in Massachusetts because you should dig the bulbs up for the winter, which obviously adds more work, and some people have warned me that the bulbs get eaten by moles and chipmunks.  But we’ll see.  As I said to my Dad this week, the benefit of this being a hobby is that if something doesn’t work out, it’s not like I am a farmer depending on income.  I planted the Sweet Peas in a garden that has barely been cleaned out.  I was literally raking leaves and then digging the holes on Wednesday evening – in the rain.  I was waiting to get them in the ground but they were getting really “leggy” and then I read that Sweet Peas should be planted as soon as the ground is workable so after I finished work, I just planted them. This weekend, the goal is to get that garden cleaned up and prepped for pumpkins and we need to build a few more beds.

Over the winter I took lots of photos that I intended to blog about but never did.  But after this dreary week, when I saw this photo of these lemon cookies we made, they brightened my day and I just had to post them.  They were so, so good.  As usual, I didn’t put the cookies back into the fridge to firm up after we cut the rings so they don’t look as pretty as they should. But if you like lemon and have the patience to make lemon curd (you could always buy it, too!), these are worth it.  Our whole family loved them.  We got the recipe from Sweet Paul.  Go here to get the recipe and see what they should look like. xo

New Bees

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It’s spring, I think… The tulips have all bloomed and the peonies are getting taller and taller.  That means it’s time for bees and the garden.  Finally! We lost both of our hives last fall so we had to replace them with new colonies or “packages.”  It went much smoother this time than the first time we did it — for a number of reasons but primarily because Sean took over this job and I just got to take pictures and videos!  It’s kind of an unnerving process because you have to shake thousands of bees from a box into the hive.  They are pretty good about wanting to stay with the Queen and go in pretty easily but it’s still a lot of bees and you have to bang the box kind of hard to really get them to fall out.  We had a beautiful day to put them in and in a couple of days, we will be able to open the hives up and check to see that the Queen is alive and that she is laying eggs.  Because we lost the other hives in the fall and the bees didn’t have a chance to go through any of their honey stores, the new bees should be off to a fast start and we should be able to harvest honey this spring, which we have not been able to do in years past.  Yesterday, after a few pretty dreary, cold days, we had a beautiful day and the bees were really active, bringing in tons of pollen.

We are getting to work on this year’s garden and our kitchen is full of seedlings.  It’s a little crazy.  Next year we may need to move things and get some grow lights.  This year’s garden will include flowers for cutting.  This is not something that we have done in the past — choosing to mostly focus on veggies and pumpkins — so I am really excited to see how it goes.  We are adding six additional raised beds and using the majority of the existing garden for more pumpkins. Sean built two of the beds yesterday and they look awesome.

We over-wintered our carrots and parsnips and they look beautiful already, thought not quite ready to pick.  We also unintentionally left the roots of some of our kale in over the winter as well and it is growing back really nicely.  Not sure how it will taste but it was a nice surprise to see it growing back and it looks really good.

Yesterday, we planted peas and some more kale and we have started to harden off some of the other seedlings.  It’s so tough to be in Massachusetts because the weather is so unpredictable but sometimes I think I wait too long to get things in the ground.  This year I am going to gamble a little bit and get things in earlier in May.  In my next post, I will share some of what we are growing. xo

Catching Up

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Not quite sure how we got to mid-January. I had the best intentions of blogging throughout the holidays but obviously I didn’t. I didn’t even do a year-in-review.  Oh well, time to move forward. 🙂 I probably made more gifts this year than I have in years past but as a total rookie blogger, I didn’t take any good pictures of what I made.  The two photos up top were taken with my phone at my Mom’s house after I had already gifted the items. It didn’t even occur to me to take the pictures until after so I snagged them back for a quick picture.  So there is obviously zero photo-styling going on those shots.  Haha.  I made the Honey Cowl for my sister Lonnie.  I loved, loved, loved this pattern and knitting with Madeline Tosh DK.  The tote is the Wool + Wax Tote from Making:FAUNA. I made this for my sister-in-law Lori and I loved making this tote, too.  I plan to make another one for myself.  I really liked working with waxed canvas and how much structure it provided to the bag.  We made a ton of soaps, orange oil and beeswax salves and apple cinnamon lip balm but I only got pictures of the soaps.  We did two kinds of soap – a honey buttermilk cold process soap and a honey goat’s milk soap made with a soap base.  I think both kinds came out great and I loved the molds that we found to fit with our honey and bee theme. Those adorable mugs were made by Ceara for her friends.  She saw the idea on Pinterest (you use a gold Sharpie and letter stencils) and they came out so awesome.  She filled them with some soaps and lip balms.

December seems like a million years ago now.  We had a wonderful, relaxing holiday week together.  It was so nice that we were all off from work and school.  We went to the Vineyard for Christmas in Edgartown earlier in the month.  It was freezing on the day of the parade.  Last year it was so warm, we didn’t even wear jackets and this year, we could barely stand to walk around. But the parade is always so charming and the locals do such a good job making it a fun event.

2017 is off to a good but busy start.  I am really committed to making the time to be creative this year and I am hoping to take on some new challenges and even a creative adventure.  Last week, I won my first-ever Instagram giveaway – 10 gorgeous skeins of Brooklyn Tweed Arbor from Squam Art Workshops!  I was ridiculously excited about it and a little dorky.  The yarn is so soft and  I can’t wait to make something with it but I need to finish a few projects first. I owe Sean a hat, though, so I may just have to cast on for that. He is not much for wool but this yarn is so soft, it may change his mind.

One of my challenges for the year is to learn to take better photos and hopefully, in turn, improve my blogging game.  The two photos on the bottom were taken after the first “lesson” in an on-line photo course I signed up for.  I have had a pretty decent DSLR camera for almost 10 years.  However, I always take photos in auto-mode and I have never been able to take a photo in low light or actually capture a light bulb or a fire or anything of that nature. I have tried a million times.  But after this lesson and getting out my manual and playing around for awhile – success!! That’s the only reason for posting that. Haha. The bottom one of the succulents was taken after playing around with aperture.  So let’s hope that 2017 brings more photos like the bottom and less like the top. xo

Thankful

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I really thought I would be blogging more regularly but for now, in this stage of life, I will have to settle for a catch-up blog.  Earlier this fall, we took Teagan’s Girl Scout troop to a local Audubon wildlife sanctuary to work on their animal habitat badge.  I have driven by this place about a hundred times but in my 14 years living here, have never gone until we were forced to find a place quickly because our original place cancelled our tour. It was so beautiful and peaceful; we just had to go back with Sean and Ceara when we had a free afternoon. Now that I know what a great place it is, I can’t wait to go back in the spring when we might be able to see the osprey that live in that nest.

We have been playing with air dry clay a little bit and we made these little ornaments for a fundraiser at my work.  They were the perfect thing for people who only wanted to spend a couple of dollars and they were really fun to make. The girls made a few other treasures that are still getting some finishing touches.  A few of the things they made are for Christmas gifts and I am impressed with how much time and detail they have put into their creations.

I had bought this Rifle Paper & Co fabric with the intention of turning it into little zip pouches for Christmas gifts but after looking at it for a little while, I knew that the gold would be perfect with my china so I decided to made a quick table runner.  I absolutely love the way it came out and it looks even better without the table-cloth underneath. The navy and gold combination feels really holiday-ish without being too fall or too Christmassy.  I balanced all the gold with some burlap silverware holders.  Can’t be too fancy. 🙂  I just stitched them up with a navy blue zig-zag stitch and cut up a Target dollar bin garland for some greenery.  But we had to keep with tradition; so we displayed the pilgrim napkin rings that we made about 5 years ago and of course, we made our pilgrim hats, which are just chocolate covered marshmallows on top of upside-down Fudge Stripe cookies.  I think I saw the idea (as well as the pilgrim napkin rings) in some issue of Family Fun a million years ago but it has stuck and they will probably always be on our Thanksgiving menu!

I finished the Livie cardigan that I knit for my cousin’s daughter and I am really happy with how it came out.  The yarn is incredibly soft and I was thrilled to find a button that matched perfectly in the jars of buttons that I inherited from Sean’s grandmother.  I still have a lot of knitting and sewing to go before Christmas but I am making progress and enjoying making as much as I can.

Speaking of that, we made our first batch of soap with honey from the bees!  We made a honey/ginger/orange/buttermilk soap and it smells amazing.  We used a recipe from Pure Soapmaking but made a few tweaks that didn’t mess with the critical parts of the recipe. I was a little nervous about working with lye (even with all the precautions) so I had my trusty assistant take on that part but my fear was a little overboard and I am ready to take it on for the next batches.  Since soap has to cure for four weeks, we have to make more this week if we want to have it ready for Christmas.  Our goal is to be able to make a few different things with honey and/or beeswax to give out as gifts.  I am so excited to finally be able to make stuff from our hives.  xo

Home

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After being away for a work trip, it was so great to get home. I arrived to a clean kitchen (bliss!), flowers and some homemade cards. The pink card was supposed to be sent to me while I was away but it never made it in the mail. Good thing, because I definitely didn’t have a lot of time to be looking for fairies and vampires. The weather has been crazy so all of our spiderwebs are mangled and full of leaves. Guess that makes them even more spooky??  Teagan wanted a big spider on the house but I couldn’t find any more in the stores when I went so we decided to make one. We used a styrofoam dome that we painted black and two hula hoops that we cut into quarters. We just wrapped the “legs” in chunky black yarn and stuck them into the foam.

Sadly, right before I left, we lost one of our bunnies. His name was Penny and he was really cute and friendly. The kids were devastated. While I was gone, Sean and the girls decided that the remaining bunny (S’mores) was lonely so they got him a friend. They still haven’t decided on a name for him yet but at the moment all possible ideas revolve around Harry Potter characters and characters from Madagascar.

I am flying through the Livie I am knitting for my cousin’s daughter. I love this sweater and this yarn. I hope it fits her. I also can’t wait to make it again in a different color. I see now why people love to knit for babies. So fast. The last child-sized garment I knit was a sweater for Ceara when she was 3 and 1/2 and she refused to wear it. It was bright blue (her favorite color at the time) so when it came time that Teagan could wear it, she wouldn’t wear it either because she only wore pink and purple at that age. Sigh.

After being away and eating way too much restaurant food, I was dying to get back in the kitchen.  Before I left, I took a few cookbooks out of the library – one of my favorite things to do.  One was Mad Hungry – Feeding Men and Boys by Lucinda Scala Quinn.  I have actually taken this out before and wanted to make these beef empanadas the last time.  The have the craziest combination of ingredients – onions, peppers, raisins, honey, cumin and pimento olives but they were so, so good.  The picture is not very good – actually in hindsight kind of gross looking – but trust me that the filling is so good and authentic tasting.  I think the filling would make great appetizers in little phyllo cups.  Then, I had to try and re-create this AMAZING salad that I had at Bluebeard in Indianapolis.  We shared it as an appetizer and our whole team loved it.  I came pretty close, I think.  Sean is not a fan of butternut squash and he said, “I didn’t think I was going to like this salad but I love it.” Ingredients: butternut squash (roasted with olive oil, s&p and a little maple syrup), pancetta, shallots (i cooked them with the pancetta), currants, pepitas, shaved manchego, arugula and basil.  Roast the butternut squash, adding the currants for the last 10 minutes, combine with arugula and basil so that it wilts, add pancetta and shallots, dress with vinaigrette and finish with manchego and pepitas.  It is AMAZING! (all caps needed again) For the vinaigrette, I reduced a cup and 1/2 of sparkling apple cider and two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, then I whisked it together with a 1/2 cup of olive oil, a couple squirts of dijon and s&p.  Making this all fall – since I have about 10,000 butternut squash. xo