Summer Company

We had company come to stay with us for the last week. Wednesday-Sunday, we hosted the lovely Liisa and Shanti (and Dobby!). Sunday-Tuesday, we had another set of friends with their two youngest daughters. We whooped it up, visiting lots of local sights and eating way more than we should. OMSI, the Zoo, Pearl District, etc. We hit a few new-to-me shops including Penzey’s, where I got dried chives and shallots to experiment with homemade ranch mixes.  We also did the tour of Bob’s Red Mill and spent some time in their factory store. (Dave’s Killer Bread is made across the street, so the entire block smells like a bakery.)

2014-07-25 10.29.33Bob’s Red Mill Whole Grain Store

At the Zoo, Rex decided he was afraid of most of the animals. He was mainly interested in the lions (the cubs are getting so big!) and the boa constrictor.  The giraffes and the hippos were ok, as long as we didn’t get too close.

2014-07-29 11.33.16Mama Rex Selfie at the Zoo, in front of the lions.

I love having friends visit, but I am looking forward to a quiet day tomorrow. I may just stay in my stretch pants all day…

 

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.