Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Is It August Yet?

2:08 AM and the worst case of insomnia I can remember in ages.

I hope tomorrow is nice to me.

Monday, July 30, 2007

End of July, Beginning of August

Must mean the last of the beans, the first of the tomatoes.

This is the first Tonadose des Conores cherry tomato, and all of its blondkopfchen buddies.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sunday Evening

Busy day, but by the end of it I was feeling a little more settled about things. Church was amazing--the topic was people's conversion stories--not just people who weren't born in the church but converted for whatever reason, but also the stories of folks born and raised in the church who talked about finding their own testimony. It all made me cry, but was good stuff.

Pictures from earlier in the week:

Canning pintos:

These are the Morning Glories. My Dad used to enjoy growing them and I've wanted to plant them forever, but this was the first year I actually did. They're fun and not too hard to grow, but they definitely need water.

Here's the Classic Baby Cardigan from Vogue Spring/Summer 2007. I used KnitPicks' Shine Sport in Apricot.

The color is most true in this picture. I found the buttons at Michael's. Ben picked them out.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Was Today Wednesday?

Because it hit us here at this house like a ton of bricks.

See, for weeks now, Gaye, Chris, and I (that would be Chris, Chris's Mom, and me) have been trying to get her place sold and her moved out here. We've been through one wingnut offer that fell through after we'd already made plane reservations for Chris to go out there. (I say "we" because we all wanted this to work out so badly, but of course it was hardest on Gaye.)

We went through more weirdage last week. But then finally, finally, finally today all the papers were signed, the pest inspection is tomorrow already--everything will move horrifically rapidly now--Chris goes out there to pack up the rest of her belongings on Tuesday and stay through closing (::counts on fingers) less than two weeks away.

So today was about making plane reservations for Chris, reservations for Gaye, reservations for a moving truck, getting preapproval letters for the house search out here, and in general there were ten thousand phone calls back and forth (thankfully, most with 800 #s) and in the middle of it all--I totally forgot Max's piano lesson. When I realized it was when the lesson was hours before and I felt--I felt the size of a flea.

Nevertheless, I got the twins off to their lesson on time (this is much easier as their lesson is at the same time on the same day each week. For a variety of reasons, that's just not possible with Max's lessons this summer.) and wrote the piano teacher a heartfelt apology and then came home and we ate and talked more about plans for the move.

I have a feeling it will be pretty much The Moving Mom show for the next few weeks. I canned up another 9 quarts of pinto beans today and I think that will have to be it for a few weeks until things settle back down.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Shush, shush, shush, shush

That's the noise the gently rocking pressure regulator on the top of my pressure canner. When I can beans, they are processed for 1 hour and 30 minutes at 10 lbs of pressure, and that pressure regulator makes the shushing sound for the entire time. Every so often I check on the canner, just to make sure we're still at the right pressure.

I would like to say that canning dried beans like pinto and black turtle beans is easy--and it is in the sense that none of its steps are hard to understand. But it's not in the sense that it's time consuming and there are quite a few steps.

But it's so worth it. While canning tomato soup and salsa is fun for me--I distinguish between the two products. The soup is an actual meal. For every quart of tomato soup on the shelf, that's one meal I don't have to buy more groceries for.

Well the beans are the same way. Last year I bought about a hundred pounds combined of pinto and black beans. To my great delight, pressure canning the beans allowed me to add in some flavor (seasonings and some chopped onions) and get a better, smoother bean product at the other end. I almost always puree the beans straight out of the jar and then into a pan on the stove to reheat for burritos or quesadillas. I use the beans whole to add to chili or soups. Today I used a jar to make a corn and black bean salad which is just . . . yummy! Besides the fact that the taste is great--it cuts the preparation time at the other end to 5 minutes tops. And that keeps us from buying expensive frozen convenience foods that aren't good for us and are a waste of our snug grocery budget.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Between the two gardens

We had just enough for two pints of raw pack green beans.

These are a mix of blue lake, green, purple, and wax beans. Before and after. Note that the purple beans turn to green when cooked. We think that's cool.

The Community Garden

Most of these pictures were taken by Max. The first few are not from our plot. They are simply flowers or plants that caught Max's eye. The balloon flew overhead as worked yesterday morning. We were out earlier than usual.

This morning we are being rewarded with heavy rain--no need to haul water to the thirsty corn and tomatoes today.

From our own plot there at the gardens . . .

broccoli, the first head already consumed, growing a new one.

Some of the tomatoes (most are doing well now that diseased branches have been pruned. Some varieties are still struggling with blossom end rot. The plot needs more calcium, and next year I'll look for varieties that can handle the water fluctuations that happen with hand-watering the garden better.)
San Marzano Redorta

Cherokee Purple

German Red Strawberry (a little out of focus, but you can see the strawberry shape to them)

Candy onions grown from tiny seedlings

Small purple peppers (will turn red when ripe)

Sugar baby watermelons

Pulsar Muskmelons

I also added more photos below to last night's post about the things growing in our front yard.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Bounty in the Front Yard

OK, Lots of Photos--Few words. I'm still working on that algebra lesson.

wild flowers

The sour cherry tree. Grows bigger and bigger no matter how savagely I cut it back. It was nothing more than a twig just two summers ago.

The jalepenos

Three different squashes, beans . . . mint, too.

The volunteer tomato that is clearly a hybrid of the grape tomatoes and one of the russian varieties from last year. It's wedged itself in next to the front steps.

This mostly shows the failure of the onion sets. I put out several dozen and most went to seed. The third section there (bottom of frame) is mostly for lettuce, but it's too hot here for the lettuce now and it all bolts. So I'm letting another volunteer tomato (that's the fifth out of five volunteers I let live. There were many dozens more than that that came up) have that spot--albeit without support since I'm out stakes, cages, and money. The sunflowers also have that spot and one of the two jalepenos have that area (the other being with all the other hot and sweet peppers over at the community garden). We have, um, 35 tomatoes altogether. That includes five volunteers, two varieties of cherry tomatoes (at home here), one Mr. Stripey at home here (which is shaded and has yet to produce fruit) and all the rest are at the community garden. At some point I'll photograph and do a post on just the tomatoes.

The thriving and extremely abundant Blondkopfchen. I ate its first ripe tomato this morning--tiny, brilliant, yellow, and sweet.

butternut squash

the twins' sunflower project

There. I think that's really all the photos.

One more of Emily:

Emily says

Stay tuned. Mom uploaded a gazillion photos to show you just as soon as she finishes the lesson portion of her algebra.

Max says, "I took a lot of the photos."

I say, "11-teeners are a LOT of fun. And they're a good help, too."

Saturday, July 14, 2007

I started off the day with an hour in the community garden. I meant to take pictures while I was there but I got started with working and then at the end of the hour Max and Emily were getting impatient with my constantly asking them for just a few more minutes--and I had to hurry out of there. In fact, I hurried so much I left the camera IN the garden. Chris had to go back for it later.

The rest of the day I spent either in the kitchen or the living room, trying to get pizza dough made for tomorrow night's dinner, the living room clean because--well, because it was a mess--and finishing up the blueberry jam. Chris brought me strawberries for my birthday, so then I made strawberry jam--which is Max's favorite.

At this point it feels like much has been accomplished but I need to scrape together a little more energy and confirm that we all have something to wear for church tomorrow--and probably do a load of laundry for those of us that don't.

Friday, July 13, 2007

To Everything There Is a Season

And a purpose to every canner under heaven.

Our kitchen, which had looked like something from a "Cops" episode--the ones with the drug dens and the multitude of unwashed pots and pans--isn't so bad now. I finished up my last work due for the week around mid-morning and set to work doing dishes and reclaiming counter space so I could do a few batches of blueberry jam. (Cue Michelle Shocked song about strawberry jam.)

In the end I only got one batch of jam done because around 2pm I lay down on the couch for a short nap and came to around 6:30 pm. Everyone else had already had dinner. I was trying to figure out what day it was and what state we were living in. (Kidding about that last part. Y'all know I know what state I'm living in.)

I did a lot of workwork this week, and since the big Walton food storage order came in yesterday and there were piano lessons for all three boys and I went and looked at a house for dear MIL, and there was the 2-hr allergy appointment for Big Max and the whole blueberry run thing . . . well, it was just a REALLY busy week.

Except that I don't have to do any workwork all weekend. Isn't that awesome? So tomorrow I'm doing the second and final batch of blueberry jam and will finish cleaning the kitchen and living room and somewhere in there I should put in a few hours at the garden, battling the weeds.

Boys getting wild--must be time to wrangle them up and put them to bed :)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

They Blinded Me With Science

The theme for Max today was definitely about donating his body to science. He had an appointment with the allergist and I'm pleased to say that he is basically just allergic to pollen. Not to dust mites or mold or mildew or any of the other things that I am totally unequipped to get out of the house. I can't do much about the pollen either because getting central A/C is really low on our budget list right now (long after "get new roof" and "fence in backyard for safety of dog"). But i can buy the boy drugs and see if that helps. He is allergic to all the pollens--to PA tree pollen and PA grass pollen and PA ragweed pollen. In my experience, he is least allergic to the summer grasses and most sensitive to those spring tree pollens--and kind of in the middle with the fall stuff.

Then he came home from that and Penn State had called to set up an ambitious schedule of appointments for the experiment they're doing on preteen boys, exercise, and the effect of heat and humidity on core body temperature. I made the initial contact and set up the first appointments, but since then Chris has taken over and he and Max seem to be having a good time working the Penn State medical experiment department. Max gets enough money out of it to get a Wii and some games. Tonight he had to swallow a pill of some sort that has a transmitter in it. It's a little thermometer that he'll um, expel, in a few days. Max and Chris think this is just the height of high-tech bathroom humor.

The evening was donated to piano lessons and boy scouts. Ben was delightful in his piano lesson, being enthusiastic, well prepared, and trying desperately to be good and listen to his teacher for once (he was partially successful). Milo was in a stubborn mood and I give his piano teacher mad props for not throttling him.

Max had his first lesson after a 6 week break and so pleased his teacher with the progress he'd made (or at least, with the fact that she could tell he'd been practicing, regularly, and hadn't lost any ground) that she was practically levitating. She had good news for me, too. We've been awarded a meaningful scholarship that will make affording the piano lessons in the fall much easier. I couldn't believe it. I'd filled out the form the very last day you could turn it in after trying twice before and just feeling too overwhelmed to continue. I'd been warned repeatedly that the awards tended to be very conservative, covering little more than the annual registration fee. Well, this goes beyond that.

After piano we dropped Max off at church for boyscouts and headed over to the yarn store to check on the monthly project. I didn't have the time or the babysitter to go to my monthly knitting class, but I wanted to see the project to see if I might want to do it. She had some samples and they were really stinkin' cute. So I might toss a few pairs together for some of the newborn girls.

Or not. I keep forgetting I have so much work right now I'm totally sleep deprived, never mind knitting. (Not complaining!!) Actually, I get a short break this weekend. God's birthday gift to me is two days to clean my house.

But first thing in the morning I have 6 pages due to a client and an awful lot left to write, so I'd better get back to that.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Blueberry Day

It's 90 degrees right now on its way up to 96. Ben and Milo are in the pool on the deck and I am watching them from the couch (there's a wall, a window, and about 12 feet between them and I--but the door is at the end of the couch).

Today's mission is to complete an algebra lesson on which I have a long way to go. But much has been accomplished. Max and I headed out to the garden this morning and I finished another massive round of weeding while he watered everything. Both thriving broccoli plants (there is a third that is sort of just sitting there. It looks fine, but it hasn't grown in a month.) were ready to give up their head of broccoli, so I broke those off and brought them home. Max's watermelons are really coming along. At this rate we'll have some to eat in a matter of weeks. A big improvement over the watermelons of last year which didn't set any fruit until late August and never ripened before freezing set in. Interestingly enough, both the watermelon (Sugar Baby) and musk melon (Pulsar) are doing much better in the more harsh conditions of the community garden than they are in the well-watered, well-fertilized, well-weeded condition of the front-yard garden.

We (the twins and I) ate one of the broccoli heads for lunch. We had it steamed with butter and salt and I was interested in seeing how (if) it was different from the sort I usually get from the store. Well, it was. It had a decidedly nutty flavor to it--something that kind of turned off my usually enthusiastic broccoli eater (Milo) and made my less enthusiastic broccoli eater (Ben) gulp his down.

I don't know what all we're having for dinner, but I know it will include zucchini, since one of those was ready to eat, too.

Once back home I washed the garden off my skin--scrubbed really. I'd been deep in the tomatoes pruning off the sick branches and my arms and legs and hands were covered in yellow/green tomato sap. Then worked a bit on the algebra, and decided to get the first half of 20 lbs of blueberries canned. I had decided to do the first ten lbs as a raw pack in medium-weight syrup--to use later in cobbler or pie. My canner only fits 7 quarts, and 10 lbs of blue berries yields 8 quarts (measured by quart canning jars anyway). So I looked thoughtfully at the remaining quart of blueberries and decided they must want to be made into cobbler for today. So while the 7 quarts were processing, I threw together the cobbler. Again, I don't know what we're having for dinner, but I know what we're having for dessert. (And it won't be that long before I make it again--one of the quarts didn't seal.)

Tomorrow is a crazy busy day with piano lessons and boy scouts and more work, but somewhere in there I need to put up the remaining 10 lbs of blueberries as jam.

Emily is napping happily in front of the fan. This is no accident. When the temperatures climb, she goes and finds a fan and lays in front of it.

For an oppressively hot day I'm in a good mood. My house is a total wreck (which I find depressing), but my boys are all home. The blueberries helped, too. The many colors of blueberries are so vibrant. You feel less like a "cook" and more like an artist transforming empty jars into purple glass and empty pots into deep red jelly and empty casserole dishes--well, into messy, delicious cobbler.

I'd better get some more algebra done.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

With Age and Experience Comes Regret

I totally regret installing Windows Vista on my computer. It is slower, it doesn't get along with my virus protection program, and the upgrade on some unidentifiable component on my computer didn't "take" so it asks me for the driver with each and every start up.

But I don't regret this HALF as much as I regret installing a 60-day trial for MS Office 2007 on my computer. Never mind that I can't FIND half the commands (folks, I use WORD and Excel every freakin' day. If anyone should be able to intuitively find, say, 80% of the commands in the new version, I should.) the program is sooooooooooooooooooooooooo slow. JUST SITTING in my computer it does stuff in the background that slows down everything else. And if you thought running MathType with Word was slow before, you haven't seen ANYTHING until you try to run it with MS Office on the hard drive under Windows Vista.

The pauses I experience every time I go to save (which is constantly. I am in the habit of hitting ctrl+s at the end of any paragraph, after adding any new art, etc., etc.,) are MINUTES long.

Add that to the fact that I have a fly the size of the Hindenburg flying around my desk and you'll understand that my sanity levels are at an all-time low.

On the upside, Max is coming home tomorrow, and thanks to friends who were having a garage sale and let me crash it, I got rid of all the twins too-small clothing, a bunch of Chris' too-small clothing, an old printer, an extra dog kennel, and a variety of other goodies and made enough money to buy enough gas so that Chris can drive to Philly and back and go get him.

The whole gas budget situation makes me look enviously upon my Amish neighbors. I look at their transportation and wonder how many bales per mile they get and how much property taxes they pay on the land they need to grow the hay. (I tell you, I've thought out that option far enough to consider whether we could put a small barn in the backyard, what the annual vet bills of a suburban horse might be, and if a horse would have to wear small spikey horse shoes to pull the five of us up our steep street in a snow storm.)

Milo just read a book and now he's laying on the floor doing crunches. I haven't read that particular book, but it is so typically Milo to want to take what he just read and apply it to his own life in some way.

This time next week I'm turning 39. No big plans. I've decided I'm looking forward to turning 40 the following year though. Turning 30 was great. My thirties as a whole were a huge improvement over my 20s. So I have high hopes for my 40s. But I have one more year of 30s. I'll try to make the best of it.