Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Good tomato soup recipe?

All summer I didn't can a single thing. We just threw all of the extra ripe tomatoes straight into the freezer and now we can't fit ANYTHING else in there. Not even a pint of ice cream. It's really sad. 

 We all like tomato soup very much and since Aldi apparently discontinued our regular can of organic tomato basil soup I've been trying (unsuccessful) to replicate it.

The first attempt was a roasted tomato and pepper soup from The Art of Doing Stuff. I LOVE her blog. It turned out wonderfully as far as the husband and I were concerned but was too spicy for the kids.

Tonight I tried a recipe from Allrecipes that had really, really good ratings.  You basically simmered tomatoes in chicken stock with some cloves.  I added some basil and oregano too.

It looked very promising on the stove.

But it's way too acidic.  Or to quote the oldest: "YUCK! You made it wrong! Our tomatoes are disgusting forever!"  Thanks, little buddy. This was after I added cream to try to even it out. Oh well. 

So back to the drawing board.  Anyone have a good recipe for a balanced soup using fresh tomatoes?

Friday, October 25, 2019

Leaves everywhere; maple syrup planning

The view from the bathroom window, upstairs.

Leaves are everywhere.  I feel blessed to live in a part of the world that puts on this gaudy but spectacular display every fall.  It's beautiful enough to give a person pause when stepping outside in the morning.

Making maple syrup this spring was such a wild success (in spite of warping our oven racks and setting my bangs on fire) that we're now seeing maple trees everywhere we look this fall.  I never noticed them before but now that we know what they can do we see them everywhere.  It must have been such a welcome source of sweetness and calories to our ancestors and now they're just growing out there, in plain sight, with mostly everyone ignoring them.  We have at least 6 maple trees on the property big enough to tap, in theory anyway.  I set out this week to identify them.

I needed to call out backup in the form of some of our much more tree-wise friends but basically what we concurred is that we have 1 sugar maple tree and the rest are red maples.  The yellow leaf on the bottom left above is the sugar maple.

Elderly red maple in the front yard.

Closest to the garage is the sugar maple.  Closest to the road is another red maple which I tried to tap last spring and could not find any live wood in the trunk.  Bad news, I know.  The other tree that I tapped is a red maple out by the swings and trampoline.

These two are in the center of the property, more red maples, but as they both have poison ivy growing up them we'll not tap them.  

We've been doing a lot of this; raking the leaves into a big pile at the bottom of the slide and sending the kids down it.  It's been fun and has resulted in a lot of surprise! leaves inside clothing at bedtime. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

I always heard...

That being a stay-at-home mom involved going to the gym and something about enjoying bon-bons.  No one mentioned fishing a roll of toilet paper and a stegosaurus out of the toilet.  Happy Wednesday. 

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Fall update; poultry, house projects, a recipe

Hello, fall!

Beautiful leaves are everywhere.  

We've been outside everyday and the weather has been crazy.  It was really warm today but earlier this week cold and rainy and we all needed mittens.

On the cold day the youngest was so bundled up that when he fell into a flower bed he could just lay there on his back waving his little arms and legs until I rescued him. It's been great though. The oldest and I pulled the spent Jerusalem artichokes (taller than the garage!), leveled ground, put down pallets and stacked wood.  I have also been working on stripping the veneer off of the crappy back door, which we have lived with since buying the house, so my husband can paint it and install a kick plate before winter. We're going to call it "done and good enough" until spring.

It's kind of pretty like this, but we can't keep it. When it's done we'll wonder what on earth took us so long.

I've made an appointment to take some old laying hens to the butcher tomorrow,  only 3 which still leaves me with way too many birds.

These goofballs are safe from the freezer.  They're awesome.

Popcorn the rooster has turned out to be sort of a stinker.  He hasn't spurred anyone yet but he's working up to it.  He regularly rushes me and the kids and is met with my boot.  I would send him to the butcher too but promised I'd contact the woman we got him from if it "didn't work out". It's not working out and I called yesterday and left a message asking what she would like to do with him*. Usually we would just take care of this problem ourselves but will drive him back across town if she wants him back. 

We've been making Halloween decorations.  I need to go to the fabric store for material for their costumes tomorrow, they are both being parrots.  The other options that were discussed were the oldest being a forklift with the little one as a box and the oldest being an octopus with the youngest as a clam but having them both as parrots seems much more dignified.

The oldest has been discussing the book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom at pre-school so I went out and bought a coconut awhile back.  We read the book, looked at the coconut and discussed it and then I put a hole in the eye and we sampled the coconut milk.  Then we opened the nut with a hammer and talked about that and tried the coconut meat.  The coconut milk and meat are in the freezer now, we'll use them for baking at some point.  

We had walleye with mustard sauce again tonight.  Here's the link to the recipe.  I'm not sure what the difference is but it was much tastier this time when we made it.  I think having the broccoli and peas to go with it helped. 

* I just talked to Popcorn's previous owner and she said without hesitation that she absolutely wants him back if we can't keep him. So Popcorn is in luck. It's a shame really, he's so pretty.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Working on being a good citizen

I really need to work on posting more.  The lack of daylight has really left me in kind of a slump. Not getting back to friends, putting things off, going to bed early.  It will turn around.

The oldest and I have dedicated Fridays to working on being a good citizen.  He's 4, prone to unpredictable behavior and trying his best. So every Friday I try to take him and the little one out and expose him to situations where he'll have to act well but is in an environment to set him up for success.

Today was the library, just the 2 of us which was really nice.  We played together, read together and no one swore in public.

Here are the books we borrowed so I can remember what we need to take back.

Usually it's a trip to a fast food place for lunch where we work on orders, waiting in line and being a good customer. Then on to the local coffee shop.

Where we take turns, pick up after ourselves, order drinks and sit at the "bar" to watch the volunteers make coffee.

These are fun days and we all enjoy them.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Playtime at dusk, a toddler's revenge

Last call for outdoor time tonight. The oldest and I kicking a soccer ball around after dinner. It's getting dark entirely too early. 

Looks peaceful, doesn't it? 
Edited to include later events:

So I was laying down with the baby trying to snuggle/nurse him to sleep when he climbed on my head, hands flailing and knocked not one but BOTH of my contact lenses out.  Thus having totally blinded me and succeding in disarming the enemy he ran into the bathroom as fast as his little legs could carry him and tossed his brothers favorite toy into the toilet while I was still cursing and trying to find my glasses. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Zoo day, the garden

We had a gift of a day today, my husband had the day off so we took the kids to the Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium.  

It was a nice, cool day and most of the animals were out. One red panda for Christmas,  please!

For some reason I thought flamingoes would be bigger
 Also there were plenty of lovely pink feathers just LYING AROUND but, no I didn't break the rules and grap one. Although I might check Ebay.

I didn't get a lot of pictures but did get a great one of both kids right up against the glass with a leopard lying next to it.  We saw all sorts of wonderful things.  The biggest draw was the aquarium,  which I do remember being nicer last time we were there (years ago) but it did have a stingray touch tank and a tunnel for the kids to crawl through to get a closer look.

I am closing up the garden. We moved all of the fancy daylilies to a dedicated row.  I still have to do the East side of things once I make pesto and dry herbs. There are a few tomato plants hanging on.

We've dug some of the dalhias and cannas to store for the winter. I just dry them for a week or so, cut the tops off and stick them in a bucket in the basement for the winter so we can plant them again next spring. 

Hard at work doing work. 

Monday, October 7, 2019

Fall decorating, a missing cat?

I've finished decorating for Fall, inside and out.  Here's the front porch this afternoon.

Inside on the kids' bookshelf.

A basket of quince (thanks, friend N!) along with a handful of carved marble fruit collected over the years. The basket is set on top of a stack of Fall reading (The Birds, The Legend of Sleep Hollow, Grimm's Fairy Tales and The Hounds of Baskervilles).

Vintage picnic baskets stacked in the dining room for color.  I don't know if they'll stay but for now the top one is holding the kitchen and dining room linens which is convenient.

New pillow and a silk quilt (L's handiwork!)

Another pillow on the sofa.

This blanket my mom made circa 1980.

The curiosity cabinet, as usual.

Fall bunting outside. I remember the winter one was worn out and tossed last year so I'll have to make another one when we're ready.


A pumpkin and an antler found in the shed when we moved in.

Beside the door; a pig skull (one of the first I cleaned, it turned out poorly)  The pot is full of paw paw seedlings planted in the spring.  I've read they take forever to sprout and they did.  After all summer they are only about 4 inches tall.  They will need to be planted somewhere protected for the winter.

Here's the front porch again. Are the skulls too much? Considering that the neighbor displays not one but TWO actual caskets in her lawn, and doesn't take them down until past New Year's I'd say "no".

So... very worrisome, I can't find Elyse*.  She is usually on the porch in the evening, ready for dinner and then scratching at the door later in the night ready to be let in to find a soft bed.  She didn't come home last night but the weather was cold and it was pouring so I assumed that she had hunkered down somewhere and would be around come morning.  She hasn't.  

Elyse is kind of a delicate flower. not known for her street smarts.

So, I'm getting worried.  If she doesn't come around tonight I'll go around knocking on neighbors' doors tomorrow and put the shelter on notice.  I hope she shows up tonight and was just shut in a neighbors' garage or shed something.  

*ok, she just showed up on the porch acting oddly quiet and covered in burrs but seems uninjured. Thank god.  She ate but is refusing to come in the house. I have no idea where she's been up to or what might be wrong but will keep an eye on her.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Sushi at home - the learning curve

So we've had sushi for dinner here periodically ever since I had the epiphany that you could roll it at home.  For the most part it has been an adventure that has been fun, delicious, and ridiculously inexpensive.  Today was my first sushi "fail".  I got the idea into my head that because we had some leftover basmati rice from earlier in the week I should make sushi.

To my international friends - let me say this is sadly "American" food in a nutshell; Indian on Monday, salmon patties (maybe American -from the Pacific NW) on Tuesday, Homemade pizzas (Italian) on Wednesday and tonight, sushi foolishly made with basmati rice.

It usually works.  Until it doesn't.

Here is some of the other sushi that I've rolled:


Win!  But sushi rice is sushi rice for a reason- it has a short grain and is rather glutenous and sticky.  Basmati is the opposite - a dry, long-grained rice.  Each grain stands proudly and individually from its neighbors.  Which makes for a lousy sushi roll as it does not roll properly or seal at the end when you are done rolling the seaweed sheet.

The rolls tonight were a slippery mess.  Usually I can make a kinda-tight roll but the basmati just was NOT having it. I tried to put them in the refrigerator to firm them up and it did work a bit.

Here they are: one (fake crab, cream cheese, avocado) 2 (fake crab, cream cheese, cucumber) with seaweed/sesame garnish and 3 (fried coconut shrimp, cream cheese, avocado) and coconut shrimp garnish.

They did end up slicing fine with a sharp serrated bread knife after chilling.  They were delicious but messy. 

When I was at Giant Eagle today getting more seaweed sheets I took some photos of the sushi for sale and was surprised to see that it looked like basically the same combination of ingredients seasoned and presented in different way.

It was also a nice day in that I found 6 pairs of bamboo chopsticks at TJ Maxx for $4 and bought the blue and white serving platter at the thrift store for $3.

I think I need to look back on the time I spent learning to make pasta at home: hours watching Pasta Grannies on Youtube and practicing making shapes by hand after the kiddos were in bed.  That kind of time needs to be dedicated to learning the sushi process, at home, in my amateur way..  I mean, what we are eating here is damn good ( and CHEAP! I had NO idea how inexpensive this was to make) but nothing to serve to guests without a sense of humor.