New (Old) Toy

Through the Portland Mama’s board on Facebook, I managed to score this sweet 1978 Olympia Deluxe.

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Originally intended for Rex to use… This sweet little number is going to be a shared toy.

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I need to pick up a new (tri-color!) ribbon for it. Can’t wait!

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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?

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.

One Loaf to Rule Them All

I have finally found it. The homemade loaf from the bread machine that is light and fluffy, but chewy with a soft crust.  It is the closest I have ever gotten to the texture of store bought, but still shining through with the flavor of homemade. I could go on and on about this bread, but I won’t.  You just need to go make it.

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Chewy Sandwich Bread

Adapted from Melanie Cooks.

Print It! <—- I’m new!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups half & half
  • 2 tbsp grapeseed or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup quick cooking rolled oats
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast

Directions

Warm half & half in the microwave for 30-60 seconds, or until it feels warm (not hot) to the touch. Combine all ingredients in your bread machine in the order specified by the manufacturer.

  • Cycle: Basic/White bread
  • Loaf size: 1.5lb
  • Crust: Light

Allow to cool thoroughly before slicing.

Da Bears

A sunny and not too rainy spring Saturday leant itself to visiting the Zoo this past weekend.  We packed a picnic lunch and made it a short trip, just checking out the Great Northwest animals.  Being spring in the PNW, most of the animals in these exhibits were especially active, as this is their native weather.

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These two bears were having some sort of quarrel.  Either that, or they were putting on a show for the visitors.

This bear was having a late morning nap in the cave.

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The bobcats wanted nothing to do with the people and were being quite standoffish.

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There were also otters (moving too fast to get a picture), eagles (we didn’t get close because they made Rex nervous), and assorted other animals.  This exhibit is all arranged in a forest setting that lets you “hike” around waterfalls, salmon runs, and assorted flora and fauna.  It is really well done and I highly recommend checking it out on your way to view the more exotic animals.

P.S. Other than parking ($2.40), this was a zero dollar outing for us. We used our zoo membership and brought our lunch.  It was a really nice frugal adventure.

Wildwood Trail

One of the benefits of living in this city is the amazing amount of parks and natural areas.  Today we went to Forest Park and hiked a tiny portion of the Wildwood Trail near Pittock Mansion. It was Rex’s first hike and he seemed to really enjoy it.

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I’d scored a $10 kids Poang on Craigslist, but the seller lived waaaay out in NW Portland.  So far in NW that we drove through Forest Park to get there.  Since it was about a 30 minute drive from our house, we decided to make an outing out of it.  We all wore our boots* and enjoyed a bit of mud and nature.

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Afterwards, we hit up Lucky Lab Brewing on NW Quimby for a bit of lunch and a beer for Sam. It POURED rain and hailed for a bit just after we arrived.  Then, all of a sudden it just stopped and the sun came out like it had never happened.  The weather here is weird.

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The Poang is in fantastic shape and looks almost new.  I washed the cover and could barely get it back on before Rex climbed in.  He’s quite pleased with his new chair and I’m quite pleased about my $20 savings.

*Rex is wearing Stonz booties.  They were a little pricey, but well worth it for my small-footed unsure walker. He’s been wearing them since crawling and we often pair them with rain pants from LL Bean.