Awesome Parenting

Sunday and Monday, Sam is at OSCON.  But I think I’m doing a pretty good job as a single-ish parent.

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Coloring outside in your jammies at 10am? Check!

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Watching Netflix until your brain drips out of your ears? Check! (For anyone wondering, that’s his favorite show Signing Time and his favorite episode “My Favorite Sport”.)

Yeah, I got this parent thing down.

 

Better Butter Storage

Despite growing up on yellow tubs of margarine, I am a big fan of using real butter.  My only peeve is what to do with that partial stick of butter.  You can’t leave it uncovered because it picks up funky flavors.  For years, I’ve been putting it in a sandwich baggie.  I try to reuse the baggie as long as possible, but inevitably, it ends up in the garbage.

And then I had a forehead slapping “DUH!” moment.

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Yeah. A half-pint mason jar is all I needed.  Good bye plastic, hello glass jar!

In the Garden: July 18

I watched a seminar on straw bale gardening earlier in the year at a Home Show. The premise was fascinating and seemed pretty solid. With living in a rental, installing garden beds and killing large swaths of lawn is not an option. So, I bought the book and four straw bales and gave it a go.

The bales are positioned between rosebushes in the decorative border filled with bark that edges the yard.  One set of bales has tomatoes.  The left three plants are Mortgage Lifters from Liisa and the one on the far right is a cherry tomato variety called Juliet.

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The other set is half cucumbers (lemon and burpless bush varieties), half zucchini.

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I used yarn in place of wire between the fence poles and put old CDs on the top string to help fend off birds. The CDs are also doubling as plant markers.

I’m pretty pleased with the straw bale garden so far.  The cucumbers plants are huge and happy, the most success I’ve ever had with them! The tomatoes are a bit small, probably because I planted them a little late.  Now if I could just figure out what keeps eating the ends of my baby zucchinis, we’d be doing great. I’ve already lost three baby veggies to whatever is nomming on the ends.

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Besides the bales, I have one tiny garden bed that isn’t completely overrun with strawberry plants.  In this bed are two snap pea plants and one edamame plant.  The greenery not in cages are beets.  I also have a banana pepper and basil and mint plants in pots, but I forgot to get pictures of those.  I enjoy gardening, but I am thankful that I don’t have to try and feed my family on just what I can grow.

So what are you growing this year?

Mint Simple Syrup

To my surprise, the mint plant that died a horrible death last year, came back with a vengeance earlier this spring. I need to move it to a bigger container as it is straining at the seams. While we were picking basil yesterday, we also gathered enough mint to make mint simple syrup.  I used this recipe from The Hungry Mouse and it was very simple, if you’ll forgive the pun.

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I gave my mint leaves a quick rinse and spun them out in the salad spinner.  Then, I followed the steps in the recipe. The only change I made was to heat the water to boiling in my electric kettle and then whisk it with the sugar until dissolved. The syrup sat and cooled while we had dinner and then I strained it into a pint sized mason jar.

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As you can see, there’s still a few little bits floating around.  A second straining through some cheesecloth would fix that, but I’m not sure I care enough to go to the trouble.  Mint is not my favorite flavor, but I’m hoping this syrup will go well in mixed drinks and lemonade.  So tell me, what would you use it for?

 

First Harvest

Thankfully, the garden survived the high temps while we were gone over the weekend.  In fact, I think it flourished with the 90º temps, thanks to the good soaking I gave it before we left.  The straw bales seem to be doing a good job keeping the tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchinis hydrated. I’ll try to get a picture in the future, but these were not from the straw bale part of the garden.

The foods from my first harvest were from the original garden bed that came with the house and some containers of herbs.

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Sugar snap peas, larger than expected.  Rex thought they were delicious and scarfed one down before they made it into the house.

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Enough basil to make pesto for dinner.  Rex loved pulling the leaves and was very sad when we were done picking.  I washed up the basil and then threw it into the food processor with some parmesan cheese, a few walnuts, lots of garlic, and some salt. I blended it up while drizzling grapeseed oil in until it looked about right and p(r)esto!

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I served the pesto up on some organic pasta from Costco (I don’t remember what this shape is called) with a side of asparagus.  Rex had three helpings of pasta in addition to his asparagus!  I’m hoping my basil plant will continue to flourish and there will be many more pesto dinners in our future.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about the mint that was picked with the basil. It became something else entirely.

OCF 2014

Last weekend, we made our annual trip to Veneta for the Oregon Country Fair.  It is an amazing and magical place with an event like no other.  You spend all day there, but it seems like you hardly were there at all. When it’s over, you’re exhausted and dirty and can’t wait to go again.

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Like last year, Rex especially favored the drum circle.  Sam was kind enough to lug his little drums around with us, so our little musician could drum along. He found the half-naked, painted, horned woman and aged tie-dyed hippie dancing together to be just fascinating.  I felt like it perfectly embodied the Fair.

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The weather was quite warm, and while his cheeks were rosy, we kept him pretty cool. Multiple applications of sunscreen and bug spray kept our little guy protected and we poured water down and on him as often as he would tolerate.

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Of course, what he really wanted was to play in the dirt. He came home with a piece of grass, picked from the field we parked in. His favorite souvenir.

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We are very lucky because we know folks who work and camp at the Fair.  Because of this, we were able to take a couple quiet breaks, off the path.  This allowed Rex to air out a bit and stretch his legs (we packed him the Ergo for most of the Fair).

This was Rex’s third fair and he seemed to really enjoy it. We can’t wait to go again next year!

Food & Attractions

As an aside, we stayed in Eugene and visited several nice local places. Obviously, we had breakfast at Off the Waffle (we like the new downtown location). We were pleasantly surprised at the delicious menu of Falling Sky Brewing.  We were less than wowed with the menu at Hop Valley Brewing, but the food was good and the beer was excellent. Don’t waste your time at Morning Glory* unless you’re a vegan who enjoys a pretentious atmosphere and terrible service.

*I could write an entire post ranting about that restaurant, but I’m going to take a deep breath, pull out my polite card, and leave it at that.