Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Last harvest before the frost

I am amazed at how resilient our tomato plants have been. Over a month ago we were sure we were going to lose them in the high winds of a passing hurricane. While two of the plants did topple, their stems didn't break and they kept right on growing, extending suckers and leaves out to two feet beyond the garden bed. To my surprise, this final harvest yielded 70 (mostly green) tomatoes and 15 peppers. Regrettably, we didn't keep a formal count of this years harvest but our estimates are 350 tomatoes, 35 peppers, and 40 cucumbers. In all we had 4 tomato plants, one pepper plant, and 3 cucumber plants that only survived for a month or so before succumbing to downy mildew.

Soon we will clear out the remaining greens, turn the soil and add compost and leaves to condition the soil for the next planting. I am excited to plan for next spring and have learned much from this year’s effort. I know we will have more tomatoes next year however I plan on using a ladder system instead of the veggie cages from this year. The cages did work well, but I think I'll use them for a different kind of veining plant, pole beans perhaps. We were unprepared for how large the four plants would grow (learning about pinching suckers to control size a bit too late) and they quickly outgrew what the cages were meant to handle. We will also be building a second bed, 4-6 feet by 2 feet just for the tomatoes. It was easy to prune and tie the tomatoes from the back, but to reach up high in the front actually required stepping into the bed. Fortunately our radishes had already been finished off so there was no trampling.

In all I would say this year has been a great success for a novice gardener. Learning to provide for our family in this way brings comfort in uncertain times and has instilled a greater respect for natures workings. Looking at the garden every day and seeing the growth that comes from such tiny seeds, along with the loss of whole crops (ahem, carrots) has served as a reminder of Jesus' parable of the Sower and the Seed. Quiet prayer and reflection on God's creation and plan for mankind was a wonderfully unexpected fruit of this garden.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Blue Halloween

All dressed up for some early Halloween fun! UNC spirit outfits courtesy of Uncle John and Aunt Julie! Gabe's mohawk courtesy of lots and lots of super hold hair gel. ;)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Fun at the park

We're all feeling a bit better, so we took the kids to visit a local park to get some fresh air. It was large enough for them to do lots of running and also had swings and plenty of places for them to play. Addie's favorite part was taking a stroll on a path through the the woods. In her excitement walking back to the car though she got up too much speed on a small slope and ended up taking a face-plant on the sidewalk. She brushed it off quickly (after a few kisses from Daddy) and now sports a large scratch on her nose oddly reminiscent of Harry Potter's lightning bolt.

Making the sign for airplane!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Feeling buggy

Our family has been waging a battle against cold and flu germs for the last two weeks or so. It started with Steve and left him sick for the better part of a week and has now moved on to myself and the kids. So far I'm doing ok. Symptoms haven't progressed much past congestion, sore throat, hot/cold flashes and being down right tired. I'm taking Zicam frequently and hope to get over it quickly. The kids seem to be doing ok, other than a slightly-more-cranky-than-normal Gabe. I hear tiny sneezes and little coughs through the day but overall they seem no worse for wear.
Posting may be slow for a while though as all my energy is going into caring for the kids and myself. And maybe the house if I'm able... things like clean laundry and dishes to eat off of are somewhat important, you know ;)

Friday, October 10, 2008

The camera returns!

We've gotten our camera back sooner than expected, hooray!! Here are a few shots from our morning. :)

being a goofball

surfing the bins

standing tall

Monday, October 6, 2008

Progress in planning

For the first two weeks I was meal planning, I left only one or two days for leftovers and picked a few meals that turned out to be too much trouble to prepare when I was running low on time or patience. By the end of these weeks I had more leftovers than I knew what to do with and was feeling pretty discouraged about meal planning in general. But I realized that I was getting caught up in the idea; I really liked the look of the plans I had seen, each day assigned it's own menu. I'm sure for some having a set daily plan works wonderfully, but with the unpredictable hours my husband can work along with taking care of the twins the last thing I need is something else to worry about getting done that day. "I've got to be sure I get this started by 4! No matter that the kids are cranky from not napping, the toilet's overflowing, and my back is aching. Got to stick to the plan!" That's exactly what I don't need.

So, instead of assigning a meal for specific days I pick out 5 recipes to use in the coming week, but still plan on 3 days for left overs, going to our restaurant or being at friends and family for meals. I put these recipes (on index cards or printouts) in my home management binder and decide which I'm making each night based on how the day is going. If it's been a long, hard day well then leftover night is just the ticket. If the morning is going well and we don't have errands to run or places to be I reach for a crock pot recipe. Dinners that are made mostly on the stove top I keep for when Steve will be home to help with the kids.

I've gathered around 30 recipes that I keep filed in the front of my binder. Some of them are made primarily with pantry items (beans, tomatoes, rice, etc) and other items I normally keep in the kitchen. Others share similar perishable ingredients such as potatoes, carrots, and onions, which is helpful to be sure I use up bulk purchases. None of them are very difficult to make, but all of them are filling and tasty. It's been enjoyable trying out new recipes and getting out of our usual routine. This recipe is my new favorite, offering up tons of flavor with little prep required.

BBQ Chicken over baked potaotes
In crock pot combine the following:
12 oz any BBQ sauce
1/2 cup vinegrette dressing (I like sun-dried tomato)
2 Tbsp worcester sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
Add 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast and cook 4 hours on high (or low for 8.)
After the chicken has cooked 3 hours pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Scrub potatoes clean, coat in olive oil and season with salt. Bake 45 minutes.
After chicken has cooked use a fork to "pull" or shred the chicken then serve over split potatoes. Top with sour cream or shredded cheese.

Friday, October 3, 2008

New skills

I feel like I should preface this post by mentioning that there will be a sad lack of pictures for the next several weeks. Our camera was on the fritz so it's currently being repaired, with a 3-4 week turnaround time. Such a shame, because the last two days have offered countless opportunities for catching some really hilarious shots.

The kids are very interested in climbing up and down off of anything and everything right now. Addie has mastered climbing onto the ottoman by herself, and has recently taken to climbing her toy shelf and standing on top (oh, joy.) They've also started emptying out their toy bins, turning them upside down and standing on them. Gabe has proven himself to be quite good at balancing, looking like a surfer as his pudgy toes cling to the corners of the bin, knees slightly bent, crouching and swaying to stay upright. Somehow, in all this climbing excitement, one of the bins turned over and Gabe sat down inside. Just his little tush and feet would fit and I expected him to be upset. But they think it's hilarious and spend most of their time now practicing to be contortionists, pulling the bin over their heads, stepping in from every side, and twisting all around to stuff as much of themselves inside as possible. Cirque Du Soleil, here we come!