Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Living the High Life

I try to be reasonably modest. Betcha didn't know we had a pool.

Or a boat.

And a lawn crew.

He does own shoes.

It's been so, so hot here. Today was 88 degrees. We've been outside during the early and late hours and have a canopy set up to play under. My husband put in our two window AC units today for which we are grateful.  Wilting under the heat all day is hard work, especially when one has packed on an additional 10 lbs.  Mostly it's gone to my chest and baby belly, but still. I feel like a sweaty, fat mess. My hands fall asleep constantly.  After waking up in the morning I cannot close my right hand enough to twist the top off a bottle. It just doesn't work until I've been up for about an hour. OB is blaming this on water retention but I'm not sold.


Such times make a person really, really need a drink.  If someone drank a martini in front of me I'd probably claw their eyes out at this point.  A nice, dry, ice cold, gin martini. Served up. With droplets of condensation on the side of the glass. This is not that.

The currant bush looks like it's going to be a great year. I cleaned the frozen currants out of the freezer and used a bit of rhubarb to top it off to make a pound. The drinking shrub was made with this recipe:

1/2 c sugar
1/c honey
1/4 water
1 lb fruit
1 c apple cider vinegar 

Basically you boil this all for 20 minutes then strain the fruit off. You're left with a shrub concentrate which you add a healthy splash of to a glass of carbonated water. This one is much better than doing straight rhubarb, and that one was pretty dang good too.

Looking through the phone pictures I forgot about impulse buying chicks this week. The orange ones are Millie Fleur bantams and the white one is some sort of gray and white splash hybrid that lays white eggs.  They cost less than a bottle of wine and are bunking with the quail.  quail are starting to crow, so that will need sorted out soon. The geese are still here and one of the females is now making a half-hearted  attempt to sit on a clutch of eggs. We are getting an exciting amount of asparagus  and a tiny bit of greens. The garden will be finished when this pesky heat wave breals, hopefully this weekend.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Mail call

For fun here are the Postcrossing cards that have come since the last batch I posted.

Richard sent me this from Vancouver,  British Columbia.  He said there is at least some snow on these mountains year-round. He also used some awesome stamps on his card which are fun to look at.

Kathleen grew up in Solingen. She said that the "droppelminna" in the upper right hand corner photo are used for coffee. This looks like a beautiful place to visit.

Timmy from "America's Dairy Land" says that although everyone in Wisconsin loves the Packers he is a Bengals fan.

My first pandemic cards! The Keep Calm card is from Donna in Chicago. She is a teacher but of course her school is currently closed. I've received a couple of cards from Chicago now.

Sometimes we get postcards in the mail that are advertisements. I was so confused by the toilet paper card at first but then could not stop laughing. Grace sent it to me from Houston, Texas. She is baking "too much" and sends her well wishes.

This is probably hands down the best Postcrossing I'll ever receive.  Louise from the United Kingdom started off by apologizing for not having any tourist cards while the shops were closed. She then went on to say that she lives near Ashdown Forest and that Winnie the Pooh is their local celebrity as he "lived" there.  She has walked in the Hundred Acre Woods and played Pooh Sticks at Pooh Stick Bridge with her children when they were little. Blame the pregnancy hormones, but this card makes me cry a little when I read it.

Postcrossing has been such a joy. Picking out the "right" card for my recipient, writing my little note, picking out unusual stamps and going to the Post Office.  The surprise of getting a gift in the mail. Last week I sent a card to the northeastern most part of Russia, frankly I was dumbfounded anyone actually lived there after looking it up on a map. Today I sent a card to Taiwan and instead of printing out the address I tried my best to draw out the characters by hand. Every part of this process is pure pleasure.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Creek day

Today I put Papa in charge of the youngest while my husband worked.  The oldest and I spent a good chunk of the afternoon playing in the creek in Papa's backyard. 

I spent so much of my time down here alone growing up. It's really peaceful, you can get lost in your own world for hours. The two of us brought some buckets and nets for exploring.  I don't know which one of us had more fun.

A two-lined salamander?

I showed him what skunk cabbage looks like. Actually very pretty. Like a wild, stinky hosta.

Another salamander. 

The water temperature was perfect. Next time we'll find a bit deeper of a spot so he can swim. 


We found a couple of tiny crayfish. 

And found some different types of aquatic larvae.  I still can't ID this thing. God's Creatures,  I know, but it was pretty disgusting. 

A sculpin? While surfing the web looking for an ID I learned that there is a popular hobby called microfishing where enthusiasts use very tiny equipment to catch with the purpose of identifying  the very smallest of species.  It sounds hilarious and like a ton of fun.

*please see the "I'm an idiot" post script

It was such a perfect time. We had such a good time together.

Yesterday we played in another creek; we visited with friends staying at Powder Mill Run campground in Carlton. We stayed there last summer and loved it. I sincerely hope to take the kiddos camping soon. The problem is that right now campgrounds aren't taking units like our tiny Metzendorf.  The campground showers and bathrooms remain closed due to the virus so larger self contained campers are ok. Not us. It's a bummer. We've heard rumors that this may change on June 1st so it might be time to start planning some adventures. 

P.s.- identifying that small fish was driving me crazy. I had checked all of our field guides and scoured the internet. Nothing. Then I walked in the kids room tonight and realized we own a poster I purchased off the Fish Commission titled "Forage Fishes of Pennsylvania " 

There he is in the bottom left corner. #26: Mottled Sculpin. I am an idiot.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Planting day and lots of whining

This morning it was beautiful early off so after breakfast my husband went outside and fired up the tiller. 

So far today I've planted 30 tomato plants and some dalhias in the garden. If it's done raining after dinner I'll finish the tomatoes and celebrate with a shower.

Three sweet potatoes are under this stake. They were sprouting in the kitchen, so why not try.

It's rained on and off today giving us some time on the porch as well to pot up houseplants. 

I love this little arrangement of succulents.  They were all individually potted in our windows and I hope I can keep this alive. The hen and chicks were a bridal shower favor at a party of a friend of mine a couple of years ago. We are going to meet their baby girl tomorrow. 

Swiss chard and kale planted on the porch for easy picking.

That huge washtub is planted with alpine strawberries.  I did have a couple of peanut plants in there but the high winds last week killed them.

I didn't plant this, obviously,  but we are getting more morel mushrooms.  This should be a good week for them.

Homemade pizza in the oven and after that more planting weather and myself permitting. Pregnancy at 40, frankly, is ridiculous. 36 was good and 38 fine too but 40 is.... trying. I'm taking at least one nap a day, sometimes two. Feeling monstrously fat and achy all the time is no picnic either when you're only halfway through incubating a baby.  Pregnant at 40 means that your OB starts writing "geriatric pregnancy " on all of your paperwork.  It feels that way.

Pizza's ready.

Monday, May 11, 2020


It's been spitting snow for three days now. So discouraging. By this point in the spring I usually have the vegetable garden mostly planted but this year have spent my time moving 6 flats of plants inside every night to keep them from freezing.  We haven't been outside much. This feels more like March than May. 

The bright side is we have had some fun visitors at the feeder.

A spot of sun yesterday. 

It started with this lone male Oriole.  Poor thing sat in the spitting snow eating oranges and looking cold and pathetic all weekend.  It was even more pathetic when Elyse caught him. I ran out onto the porch screaming "DROP IT!" She did and he flew off but now he is very easy to identify because some of the feathers on his head are sticking straight up. 

He has been joined by at least one other male Oriole and a female too. We've hung more orange slices on the feeders and in a nearby tree for them. 

One day I chipped the ice out of the freezer and 
 we were so bored that the kids painted "icebergs".

It looks like we'll be out of this cold snap by Wednesday hopefully. 

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Plants, homegrown food and drink

The little bird and pollinator garden is looking beautiful with tulips blooming.  There are lots of pollinator friendly plants like borage, bee balm, yarrow and coneflowers grown from seed that are ready to be planted out. Parsley for the caterpillars 
 Buckwheat will be direct sown. We have so many honeybees around this year.  It's like when I was little and you had to be careful going outside in barefeet. No idea where they are coming from but I'm grateful to see them.

We haven't seen Bernie our indigo bunting yet but we do have flickers, lots of kinds of woodpeckers, goldfinches, towees and an oriole that stop by regularly. 

Mr. and Mrs. Mourning Dove were regulars early this spring until we noticed that only one of them was coming to the feeder instead of the pair. It took some sleuthing but we found their home.  Here are their two babies right before they left home. 

These were my mom's.  They smell absolutely amazing, almost like lilacs.  I'm going to transplant some of them over here.

We went to a greenhouse today to pick up a flat of pepper transplants.  The oldest came in shopping with me, his first outing in weeks, and was a perfectly respectable citizen. He brought his stuffed cat Fluff along for the trip and announced to everyone who came near us "Fluff doesn't need a mask for germs!"  What he wanted to bring home from the greenhouse was a rock. As in a piece of gravel. He was thrilled when the woman at the checkout told him he could have it.

The geese apparently saw the ad I posted on Craigslist and decided to start laying again. That pink curve is, yep, baby belly. I'm starting to feel tiny kicks and we know the sex already!

The oldest and I made a huge batch of meringue cookies yesterday.  The leftover yolks went to make egg noodles tonight (shrimp and homegrown asparagus for the adults, meatballs and marinara for the kids). The pasta was good but my Kitchenaid mixer has started making some terrible noises. It makes a whirling noise on the lowest setting and when I give it any work to do at all, like just feeding a sheet of dough through the cutters, it reduces speed by about 90%. It's 10 years old and I use it 4 or 5 times a week....  really fearing the worst. I'll call the repair center tomorrow. 

The rhubarb is barely up but some got picked anyway. 

To make the most delicious rhubarb honey shrub.

After years of going across town to hunt morel mushrooms I found some this week right next to our old shed. They're on the south side of an ancient apple tree and growing in, I kid you not, one of the many trash burn piles the previous owners so graciously left around the place and we've slowly been cleaning up.  Nothing has been down with the morels, they're drying on the kitchen windowsill. 

Bonus picture of Bee and the youngest. The oldest tought the youngest how to feed her cat treats and Bee feels like royalty.  Today for fun the kids and I stacked 5 treats on Bee's head while she was sleeping.  It was pretty damn funny.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Monday, May 4, 2020

Dandelion jelly, Mexican street corn & other cooking

There's been a lot going on in the kitchen. Mostly old, reliable stuff but also some new things prompted by boredom and cabin fever.

I made dandelion jelly for the first time. It's wonderful. The flavor is like honey with lemon. I did use a single drop of  *cough* food coloring *cough* to get that golden color.

Add 1 cup petals (yellow part only) to 2 cups boiling water. Let this sit overnight to make a tea. Next morning discard the petals , add I tbsp lemon juice and half a box of powdered pectin to the tea. Bring to a boil. Add 2 cups sugar, bring back to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Water bath can the filled jars for 10 minutes. This made 3 1/2 jelly jars worth. 

My husband made cheese burgers and corn on the grill last night. Because we had cilantro in the house we tried Mexican street corn for the first time. It was absolutely amazing and not spicy at all, actually kind of sweet.
After the corn comes off the grill brush it with mayonnaise,  sprinkle heavily with paprika and parmesan cheese, add cilantro and a squeeze of lime. We'll be having this regularly. 

This doesn't look like much but it's a new favorite as well. I think the recipe came from Martha Stewart and involves making a Thai-style sauce (soy sauce, green onion, lime, maple syrup, peanut butter, ginger and chillies) and saucing ramen noodles with it. Such a good sweet/salty/savory flavor and the sauce can be whipped up while the noodles are cooking. The first time we had this it was with tofu but it's good with chicken too.

I've been making "Our Favorite Sandwich Bread" off of the King Arthur Flour website regularly.  It calls for scalding the milk. This is a very easy bread that slices nicely and has a dense, soft crumb. Husband and I like it a lot. Kids hate it because it doesn't taste like cheap fluffy white bread (which can also hit the spot) The heels of the King Arthur loaf can also made into excellent croutons.

We've been having both homemade pizzas and breakfast for dinner at least once a week for the last month. They're easy and everyone loves those meals. Using mostly what we have on hand.

 If you have time, my secret crush Hank Shaw of Hunter Angler Gardener Cook has been doing a really fun, helpful series on making meals with what you have.  He has authored many beautiful books on cooking wild game and plants with gourmet results so that gives you an idea of what he's finding in his freezer but his posts are very helpful.