I haven’t been the best of bloggers lately because life is so busy around here. This week, my Mother and I picked and froze about 200 ears of corn. (I don’t grow corn here but a family friend does and they are going through a hard time now so we agreed to do the work and split it with them.) Another friend was out-of-town for a few days and left me in charge of a dog, a cat, four chickens and seven pigs. (It was good practice if I get pigs myself.) Right now, between writing a few sentences here, I’m blanching the massive bowl of beans I was too tired to work on last night. (They got their second wind. And the tomatoes are ripening nicely.) These are just a couple of things that have taken up my days beyond the regular workload, inside and outside the home. I do have posts in mind and fun things to share here. In September I hope to start up the 3 Questions series again. (Summer is not only a super busy time for me but for others as well.)
But this post isn’t about all of that. It’s about gifting. Remember my Gifting series? I only partially forgot about it. OK, maybe completely forgot. These four pairs of pot holders were finished ages ago but, like many other things, have sat in an I’ll-deal-with-this-tomorrow pile. (I really should look through that pile–I fear there might be unpaid bills in it.) I finally got around to snapping a photo of them and even gifted the one. The other three will hopefully be gifted soon as well.
Want to make a pair yourself? Check out the tutorial here.
When it comes to food, we a pretty simple. In the summer, we kind of let freshness be the star by simply steaming or sautéing all our veggies and adding a sprinkle of salt and pat of butter. A longtime friend of mine said recently that she remembers eating sautéed squash with cheese often at our house when she was a kid. It made me realize we really haven’t changed much in over twenty years. All summer long we deal with the overabundance of summer squash in a small handful of ways. Occasionally we grate it to make pancakes or bread, or steam-puree-freeze it for winter soups. Rarely we will make a zucchini boat. One year I used larger ones as the “crust” of mini pizzas. But mostly, it gets sautéed in a pan with onions, salt, pepper and granulated garlic, sometimes topped with cheese and eaten with nearly every dinner. Which can get boring by August. Needless to say, I am continually on the lookout for great squash recipes to keep our interest in this garden staple. So when Amanda of HeartBeet Kitchen gifted me her book, Smitten with Squash, it was such a help.
The first recipe I tried was the Banana Oat Streusel Summer Squash Muffins, partly because I had all the ingredients on hand and partly because I can’t flip through a cookbook and not make the muffins. Once I get some cardamom I’m also hoping to bake the Maple Cardamom Zucchini Snack Cake. But since I can’t live on desserts alone and the squash was overtaking the fridge, I also made the Fluffy Lemon Poppy Seed Summer Squash Pancakes and Easy Curried Tofu Salad. Later today I plan to make the Bumper Crop Spicy Squash Pickles hopefully try the Buffalo Chicken Zucchini Meatballs later this week.
Amanda is gluten-free so most of the recipes are GF by default or are easily adapted to be so. I should confess I haven’t even looked at the second half of the book yet, which is all about winter squash. I’ve got quite a few winter squash plants in the garden. And I’ve since forgiven them for taking over everything since I spy a bunch of Jumbo Pink Banana and Butternut growing. Can’t wait to harvest them and dive into the second half of the book.
What is YOUR favorite way to eat summer squash and zucchini?
The chickens are about 14 weeks old. Right now, we are at a waiting stage: waiting for the boys to reach a decent market weight and more importantly, waiting for the girls to start laying eggs. A lot of friends and family are asking about eggs. I have to keep telling them “not yet, not yet.” (Maybe in September?)
While we wait, their antics and behavior are providing great therapy and entertainment. It’s a lot of fun to watch them get so excited about kitchen and garden scraps (they especially love corn cobs.) Actually, just watching them in general is fun. Someone came over for a visit and spotted the row of chairs we had lined up and said: “Do you guys, like, sit there and watch your chickens?” “Yeah, we’re simple people.” Two of them are crowing (one being Chuck.) When we sit on the deck and call out to them, they crow (talk?) back. The cat is oddly calm around them. One evening I spotted her bathing herself right in front of them. The dog is afraid of them and won’t go anywhere near the run. When they hear me unlocking the run latch in the morning, singsonging a “Good Morning, Chickens!” suddenly, a handful of little chicken faces appear at the coop window, looking at me eagerly. It’s slowly getting darker a little earlier each night so I no longer have to wait so long to go out and lock them in. The biggest boy is definitely the head honcho. (He is the white one, easily seen in the last photo.) He doesn’t seem to appreciate me being around his girls.
(These photos were all taken over the course of the last month.)
I hadn’t intended to dye again so soon but while searching the property for more pokeberries, I spotted the goldenrod in bloom. I had wanted to try it last year but wasn’t quite ready for it in time. Since I would be going through the hassle of digging out and setting up all my dye supplies and it was the most lovely autumn-like day, I figured I might as well do a second dye as well. The marigolds here are all doing do beautifully and have plenty to spare for me to dye with. In the end, I got a gallon jar full of petals. Both flowers produced these different but equally lovely shades of yellow. I didn’t fully saturate the marigold yarn before dunking it into the dye pot so it resulted in some white patches that turned out to add beautifully to the variegation. A happy accident. The goldenrod is an alpaca/wool blend and the marigold is 100% merino wool. Both had alum and cream of tartar as a mordant. I’m already planning another marigold dye soon and an early walnut, since they have begun plunking to the ground already. The last photo shows all the yarns I’ve dyed this year, in chronological order. From left to right: dandelion, avocado, mulberry, bronze fennel, purple basil, purple basil, goldenrod and marigold. Which one is your favorite?
Every since I started naturally dyeing yarn, I’ve wanted to get gray–my favorite color. So this year, I grew both Bronze Fennel and Opal Basil from seed, after reading both can produce the color I seek if the fiber is silk. Both have grown well, the fennel is in a pot away from other plants (as it doesn’t often play well with others) and the basil is out among my tomato plants (which are plentiful but still green–a problem a lot of local people seem to be having.) For both materials, I crushed them up and shoved them in the leg of an old pair of pantyhose (to create a teabag of sorts) and let them simmer with the fiber. In the fennel pot, I used a skein of merino/silk blend. The result was not a gray but rather a soft, subtle yellow, plenty pretty in its own right. (In the top photo, it is the one of the left.)
When I did the opal basil, I used a few skeins of wool/Angora and a couple of 100% noil silk. As they were simmering, the color was similar to the fennel, a greenish-yellow. When I added a splash of vinegar it changed to a purple. The silk turned out the nicest and held to the fiber the best (it’s the one farthest to the right in the top photo.) Granted it didn’t stay that bright purple but the final bluish gray is perfect in my opinion. Unfortunately, the wool/Angora lost a lot of its color (center skein in the top photo.) I’m on the fence about it. When I first saw it dry, I thought it looked a bit like dirty water. But it has since been growing on me: If you look closely you can see a very subtle color variegation and honestly it looks great in these photos, under this light. If I still don’t like it later int he season, I have the option to dunk it in a pot of black walnuts or maybe even berries.
As I mentioned last week, I’ve decided to challenge myself to knit a pair of socks every month for a year. When I started knitting, I had the thought and hope that I’d make a lot of socks (something you can’t really make as a seamstress.) But oddly enough, after almost three years, I don’t feel like I have knit that many. I have an armful of yarn ready to be knit into socks (some with patterns in mind already, others just waiting for that perfect pairing) but always seem to cast on for different projects instead.
Overall, I’m doing this for myself and will knit alone if I have to. But if you’d like to join me, I’d love the company and camaraderie. You’re welcome to make your own minor rules. For instance, I’m aiming for a whole year/12 pairs of socks but if you just want to commit to a few months, maybe even just here and there, that’s fine. But try to stick with the main rule of completing a pair of socks within a month. (I’m actually directing this mostly at myself, notorious for starting projects but not finishing them.) If you’re interested, I’ve set up a page here on my blog for you to share your progress and completed socks here.
For this first month, I’ve cast on for another pair of Warm and Cozy Socks which will be gifted to a relative. The worsted weight held double (and the fact that I’ve already made three pair in the past) will hopefully make reaching my deadline a little easier.
A few weeks ago, a package arrived for me and after opening it, I just cried and cried. The good kind of cry. The kind that comes from being overwhelmed with how nice people can be. The level of kindness I’ve received since my Dad passed away back in March has been so touching. Not only from my family, friends and local community but the wider community I’ve come to know through blogging and Ravelry and other social media platforms. Inside the envelope was a comfort blanket. Andi was the one who brought it about, calling out to fellow Ravelers to knit or crochet blocks (in gray, knowing it’s my favorite color,) which she then stitched together. The result is such a beautiful variety of hand stitched love. It’s going to be so comforting to wrap myself in this blanket come winter. Thank you all, so much. (Details here.)
Some things are photographed above, others are not.
A family friend gave me a sweet potato she’d be sprouting. I put in the ground and it’s doing well. No idea if it’ll amount to anything but it’s worth a try. (Actually, that sums up my entire gardening approach: Let’s see if this works.)
The sunflowers are blooming. (This variety is fittingly called Lemon Queen.)
I’ve been baking bread. (Someday I might do a specific post sharing more about that.)
Ever since a friend shared this on Facebook, I’ve been a little obsessed with astrology in general and thinking a lot about all the people in my life and what signs they are.
In the beginning of the year I was busy perfecting the fit and construction of a simple tank and a tank dress. I’ve been wearing some of the attempts and they are helping me beat the heat. And the bead necklace, a gift from Fog and Cedar, is the perfect addition. (Summer fashion shouldn’t be fussy.)
I won a giveaway from the lovely Allison of Field Wonderful for this skein of Ballyhoo Farm yarn. It’s the color of oats and I hope to find the perfect Scottish/Irish inspired pattern to compliment it.
Speaking of knitting…anyone joining in the SSKAL?
It’s amazing how we are only a few days into August but it suddenly feels like August and that summer is winding down. Here on the blog this month I’ll have the results of my most recent dyeing experiments, a heartfelt handknit gift I received, more chicken talk and hopefully some completed knits!
What are you looking forward to this month?
3 Questions is an interview-style series featuring some of my favorite bloggers. Every week, I ask one inspirational person 3 completely random questions and ask them to share three photos that represent Who they are, What they do or make and Where they feel the happiest.
I’m very excited to feature Nat of Made in Home this week. I’ve long been a fan of hers. She has one of the most well-rounded blogs out there, where she shares bits about her personal life, helpful tutorials, tasty recipes, and, obviously her wide variety of creations. I always leave her blog feeling impressed and inspired by her drive for DIY. Often I’ve seen her find something she likes, something in a store or online or outside her budget, and try to recreate it, often sharing with us how she did it and notes on the technical details. That is a true DIY community spirit.
What is one thing you feel completely sure about? It was never part of my life plan and in fact we waited a bit, but I am sure I was always meant to be a mother – when I saw my little boy for the first time, I knew he was meant to be part of my life. He changed my outlook in ways I could not have imagined – even during these long sleepless nights. Personally I hate being pregnant, but knowing that I will be able to experience it again later this year is worth every day of it.
If you were going to karaoke tonight, what song would you sing? ‘Build me up buttercup’, with my friends from University – there is no way I would be singing on my own at a karaoke. We lived in the same corridor when on campus and then in the same house in following years – we still meet every year at New Year and this was/is our song. We even have actions with the song.
When was the last time you went to the beach? When people are reading this, hopefully that morning – or the previous day. We are on holiday in Brittany in France and I will nag my husband to go to the sea every day.
Be sure to check out Nat’s blog.
Click here to see all 3 Questions interviews.
…that you can open a jar of homemade jam and smear it on bread. That the freezer is full of the likes of green beans, kale, red cabbage. That you can make delicious warming soup with the saved vegetable water and squash purées. That you can top your pasta with stewed tomatoes or pesto. That the pantry is stocked with jars of sauerkraut and applesauce. That you can treat yourself to a delicious berry cordial.
While I do enjoy preserving food, occasionally, when I’ve been up since dawn and it’s after dark and I’m still blanching and freezing kale, or cutting up green beans or washing pots, sticky with leftover jam, dead on my feet, these mantras akin to “come winter, you’ll be glad you did this” are what get me through.
So far, the freezer is filling up with bags of green beans, kale and summer squash purée. The pantry now has a decent collection of homemade jams and jellies* (mulberry, red currant, wineberry and blueberry.) There is a wineberry cordial in the works. Herbs are drying. Beets were pickled. The largest head of cabbage will become cabbage rolls.
What has been happening in your kitchen or garden lately? What things (food related or otherwise) do you push through, knowing they’ll pay off in the end?
*This is the first time I’ve made it myself and am surprised how easy and fun it is. The only experiences I’ve had with making jams or jellies in the past have been kitchen grunt work: cleaning up dishes, helping seal jars. I’ve been using Pomona’s Pectin and really love how you can scale back the sugar content while avoiding all the added preservatives and whatnot.