Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Sneak Peek

Here's a sneak peek at my next project:

My husband saw me downstairs cutting fabric and he said, "I thought you were going to take a break from quilting." I smiled up at him and said, "I did! It was like 2 days."

haha! Once you're on a roll, it's hard to stop. So, now I'm working on a window pane quilt (completely ignoring the other quilts that are ahead of it in line). Ha!
It's that center fabric that did it. I fell in love instantly when I saw it at the store a few months ago. The other two fabrics I've already had for a long time. I just love all of them and I'm excited to start piecing things together! Hooray for a simpler quilt than a log cabin!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Holy Honey Bees, Batman!

There was an interesting story on NPR about bees today. It's called "Nature's Secret: Why Honey Bees Are Better Politicians Than Humans". (Click to listen.) Who knew bees could teach us so much? haha!

You can check out Thomas D. Seeley's book Honeybee Democracy to learn more.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Flag Quilt Is Finished!!!

I finally finished my log cabin quilt (I designed myself!) that I started 9 years ago in 2002! It was one of my New Year's Resolutions, so I feel pretty stinkin' proud that I accomplished it before half the year was even out. Yipee! My son is the lucky kid that gets to have it on his bed. :-)

13 stars for the 13 original colonies. This quilt was kind of an homage to the old flag quilts women used to sew back in the day. They would always include a deliberate mistake so it was never an exact replica of the flag. I think my mistake is quite obvious... :-)

It's my first hand-stitched quilt. The stitches aren't perfect, the corners don't all match up, but I made it, so I love everything about it!

The Storm Cellar

I just updated my "The Storm Cellar" tab that you see above. Now included are pdf documents of things I used to teach an emergency preparedness workshop for my church. I've also added new links for food storage. Check it out!

Friday, May 20, 2011

This Year's Garden

Strawberries, lettuce, acorn squash, maybe a cucumber?, dill,  rosemary, thyme, and basil. And potatoes that haven't sprouted yet.

Well, folks, here it is! My garden for this year. I've got some slightly high hopes for this one. I'm just hoping the birds don't make off with our berries before we get to enjoy a nibble. Not pictured is my hanging planter of Tumbling Tom tomatoes. It already had a ripe tomato that I picked the other day! Yippee!

Blueberry-Rhubarb Crumble

This recipe is the best late-spring recipe! I was excited to get some rhubarb at the farmer's market and remembered this as my favorite recipe to use it in. I was short on rhubarb and frozen blueberries, so the rest of the fruit I added were strawberries I had taking up room in the freezer. Boy, was it yummy! Experiment with your favorite seasonal fruit on this one!

Blueberry-Rhubarb Crumble*

6 c. fresh or frozen blueberries
4 c. diced rhubarb
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. all-purpose flour

1 c. quick oats
1 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cardamom
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. cold butter

Combine blueberries, rhubarb, sugar and flour. Transfer to a greased 13x9-inch baking pan.

Topping: combine oats, brown sugar, flour, nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon, and salt. Cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over fruit mixture.

Bake at 350º for 45-55 minutes or until fruit is bubbly and topping is golden brown. Let cool 10 minutes. Serve warm w/ whipped cream or ice cream. (Also good at room temperature!)

*Adapted from a Taste of Home recipe, Aug/Sept 2009 issue

Monday, May 16, 2011

Cornmeal Molasses Pancakes

You may have read before of my failed attempt to turn sour milk into yogurt. Well, I had some more sour milk on my hands. It seems the wonderful grass-fed organic cows milk we buy goes sour if we don't drink it fast enough. (Since my son is now lactose-intolerant, we don't go through milk as fast as we used to.) This is a good thing, actually, because I never buy buttermilk. I'm too lazy, I guess, and I never use it all in time. This is where the sour milk comes in!

I was looking for a way to use my sour milk, which can be used in place of buttermilk. I forgot I had printed off this recipe for Cornmeal Molasses Pancakes and so I gave it a whirl for breakfast this morning. Whoa! It was amazing! This is a delicious variation on pancakes if you're looking to change it up a bit. We drizzled on some pure maple syrup and I was in heaven! It helps that I absolutely adore cornmeal. (And just a note - the molasses does not come out strongly. It just adds a deeper flavor to the mix.) The cornmeal gives it a lovely texture too. Mmmm!

Cornmeal Molasses Pancakes

adapted from recipezaar
makes 16-20 pancakes

1 large egg
1 1/4 cup buttermilk (or sour milk)
1 generous Tbsp. dark molasses
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

In a small bowl, whisk together egg, buttermilk, molasses, vanilla extract and butter. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to combine.
Add the cornmeal and stir until just mixed. The batter may be a bit lumpy. That's ok.
Drop 2 tablespoonfuls of batter onto a hot, greased griddle, or cast iron skillet.
Flip when browned and cook through. Place on an oven proof plate in a 200ºF oven to keep pancakes warm while you cook the rest of the batter.

Serve with butter and maple syrup, molasses, honey, or blackberry syrup. Yipee!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Shady Grove

Awhile back I had posted that I had inherited a mountain dulcimer from my step-mom. I finally got around to becoming more familiar with it and actually learning a song. One of my favorite songs is "Shady Grove" so I found some tablature online and went at it. I now feel like I'm fairly proficient at it. Now all I need is a digital recorder so I can put it on here! Wouldn't that be fun?

Growing up, I aspired to play many different instruments, just like my dad. I taught myself to play the harmonica, the fife, the clarinet, and the piano. Mind, I wasn't super amazing at any of them! Rather than digging deep on just one, I only grazed a little at each instrument until I could play a few songs (Well, the piano I fell in love with a learned to play a lot better than the others). I dreamed of learning the dulcimer since I was a teenager. Learning "Shady Grove" was really a dream come true! I've got a long ways to go, though, on being really good at the dulcimer.

I had stopped playing any music when my life got too crazy being a wife, a student, an employee, a mom, and then a mom of 2. I just never picked any instrument up except the piano now and then. It's been too long since music was apart of my life and it feels awesome to be playing again!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Spring Happiness

Our farmer's market started last week. Hooray! It was cold and rainy, though, so the kids and I didn't stay long. I was very excited to bring home a large dill plant (for making pickles) and four strawberry plants that are supposed to bear all summer long. I am very excited for that!

We went again today and I couldn't help but buy a hanging cherry tomato plant called Tumbling Tom to hang from our back porch overhang. It even already has green tomatoes on it which means in a few weeks we'll have delicious fresh tomatoes! I think this year I'm taking a break from growing tomatoes. For some reason I have such a hard time growing them in containers. The past couple years have been dismal. I guess I just need to learn a bit more and probably rig up a drip irrigation line for the pots.

A Karakul Sheep

Also, last Saturday was the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival - rumored to be the largest on the east coast. I volunteered to help with t-shirt sales. I seriously thought it would be slow. I mean, t-shirts? Really? Boy was I ever wrong! I got there at 8 am and the county fairground parking field already had a lot of cars in it. There was a line of people waiting outside the 4-H building where the festival gift shop was when I walked up. We had a cryptic briefing by the head of the volunteers, and at 9 am they opened the flood gates and the building was instantly full of waiting people. There were about 12 of us volunteers and we were busy pretty much the whole first 3-hour shift.

I was so tired after working that I barely had enough energy to look around the festival! haha! I did get to see some beautiful sheep and picked up a business card for a local felting company. There were bags of wool and skeins of yarn everywhere you looked! A few workshops were going on as well. I'll have to come up with a different game plan for next year so that I'll actually have enough energy to enjoy the festival. Volunteering was fun though. I wouldn't mind doing it again - especially since I got a free t-shirt!
:-) And when I left, the parking field was totally full of cars with people parking across the street in another field. Whoa!

Look at that beautiful curling wool from the Karakuls sheep!
(It's good for making rugs and ropes apparently.)

Getting a trimming.

This little sheep has 4 horns! I love the dual colors.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Full On Spring

Our family back home in Utah and Montana reported 2" of snow last weekend and here we are in Maryland with everything in bloom and leaf. It's green and wonderful! The humidity is back (hooray!) which is welcome to me after a dry winter. It's amazing how comforting a little humidity is to me. My husband would say otherwise who is from the dry, dry west. :-)

Last week we went on a family walk. We passed the beautiful fields of old farms that are no more and decided spur-of-the-moment that we would take a walk through the fields instead of just walking along the driveway. What a gorgeous piece of property! The hills are deep and rolling with lovely patches of trees scattered around. My favorite part is where the old farm house used to stand. Someone long ago had planted a large L of pine trees to shelter the house. Now they stand stately and tall, but forlorn somehow, as if they've lost their purpose without a house to protect.

We walked all the way to the back of the property line. There had to be at least 50 acres or more spread out, cutting a swath amidst the townhouses and other signs of civilization. We've heard rumors that there are people who have plans to develop the land into more housing tracts. There was even evidence of the impending future - newly laid gas lines. And it was unfortunate that some people had taken advantage of the fallow land and dumped their unwanted trash and old carpets. It's such a sad fate for a piece of land like that.

This spring, the ache to have my own land is sharper than usual. We had considered moving up to Pennsylvania to rent a bigger home with 1/2 an acre, but I was doubtful that they would have allowed us to have chickens and I don't want to move again unless I can have at least that! Another big negative factor was the long commute for my husband. So, we're still here in Maryland and I am somewhat relieved. We've established friends and where the parks are and when the farmers markets are, where we like to shop, etc. It's hard to uproot from that. The good thing that has come out of this emotional turmoil is that we are more committed than ever to building up our savings and a down payment.

We think we might want to buy a piece of land we like and then build the house we want. We've even looked into a house kit. We're hoping to be on our own land in 5 years! It seems soooo far away, but at least we've got our goal in sight.

*Picture by Ryan Faggard
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