Thursday, November 29, 2012

Old Friends

this angel, along with 2 others (one for me and my 2 younger sisters) sat above our stockings since around 1962.  My youngest sister didn't "have" one, as she was born 8 years later after the youngest at that time.

I read on lots of blogs accounts of wondering how one will decorate the mantel this year for Christmas, what theme to have for the tree, what colors will one use . . .

I don't have those questions, because I decorate for Christmas the same way every year.  Every year we bring down the boxes from the attic.  Every year the girls tell me I have hung the stockings on the wrong stocking holders and every year they fix them ("Rhiann's goes on the snowflake, Hannah's goes on the angel, don't you remember!??" -- with 4 girls, um, no I don't).

The same stockings, the same decorations -- the two vintage looking stuffed Santa's that my own grandmother gave my two oldest daughters when they were 2 and 4 (they are now 25 and 27), the Rudolf stocking holder that sits on the mantel clock without holding a stocking because it is too tippy, the candy cane striped candles, the faux garland with lights.

And the rest of the house is the same way.  Over 35 years of ornaments accumulated for the tree -- and all (minus some breakage and deterioration) go on the tree, each with a story, a connection, a memory.  A collection of snow globes on the windowsill in the kitchen, the Christmas Village placed always in the same way on the dining room buffet.  As unchanging -- as dependable -- as the Thanksgiving Dinner menu.

Each item, an old friend that we acquaint ourselves with anew each year at the end of November, for a month's visit.

Linking to Sunny Simple Sunday

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Easy Green Tomato Chutney

If success in tomato growing could be judged by the number of green tomatoes I pick in late October and November in anticipation of impending frost, then I am most certainly successful!  I have had these large bowls of green tomatoes, and more, over the past few weeks.

One way to deal with such a bountiful amount of small green tomatoes is to make Green Tomato Chutney.

I chopped up 4 quarts worth of green tomatoes, and through it in my big stock pot along with 2 sliced onions, 2 "arkansas black" apples I had on hand, and 2 handfuls each of craisins and dried blueberries, along with 3 cups of brown sugar, 2 tablespoon mustard seeds,  2 teaspoons of ground ginger, 2 teaspoons curry powder, 2 teaspoons of allspice, and 2 teaspoons of salt, and 4 cups of apple cider.

This is cooked on low medium, for 40 minutes to an hour or until it reaches a jam like consistency.

I use a steam canner -- you can see the bottom part in the corner.  It uses less water than a water bath canner and comes to a boil much quicker.  Process the jars for 20 minutes, turn off the heat then let sit in the canner for 5 minutes more.

I made these 10 pints, and another 2 pints that I put in the fridge rather than can.

Linking with Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving Weekend

It has been a very long and packed holiday.  College daughter came home on the Megabus for Thanksgiving, so along with her, ourselves and our youngest, we had her boyfriend, my parents, and my youngest sister and her two children here for the holiday meal on Thursday.  On Friday through Saturday we had the two grandkids here while their mom worked back to back extended shifts at Target (she also worked Thursday).  So, lots of excitement.

5 yr old Aydan donned an apron to cook and care for his baby.

Then there was a lot of book reading.

Friday night we went to the Holiday Tree Lighting at Germantown Municipal Park to see the decorations.

Santa was indoors inside City Hall, so of course we had to pay a visit and partake of the treats they had set up.

Back home, on Saturday -- making faces with Mr. Potato Head.

And playing with a very patient dog!

Then we started decorating the Christmas tree we put in the dining room.

I think grouping all the ornaments on one branch makes for a more powerful decorating statement, don't you?

Friday, November 23, 2012

What a bunch of chickens!

What are they so afraid of?  So scared they won't come out of the coop?




Yes!  Scary Pumpkin has landed in the chicken yard.

Pictures abound on the internet of chickens frolicking with pumpkins.  But mine are cowering in the coop, afraid to come out.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

New Chicken Coop Reveal!

It's Wednesday morning, and our college daughter is hopefully boarding the Megabus as I type this and beginning her journey home.  The fridge is full of the ingredients for tomorrow's feast.  My trusty assistant, Crock Pot, is cooking our dinner for tonight (easy beef teriyaki) so it can be ready when husband comes home with Hannah and I can focus today on prepping some of our dinner for Thanksgiving.

And I FINALLY finished painting the new chicken coop!

Now we just need to get it moved off of the deck and into the chicken yard!

linked to Friday Farmgirl; Sunny Simple Sunday

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Homeschool Forensics Activities

Today we had our quasi-weekly Forensics Lab.  This semester I have had Cree and several of her friends over here to work on Forensics related activities.  The kids do readings on their own in several Forensics books, and come over to do the activities together.  Thus far we have performed labs with hair evidence, fabric and fibers, and this week we have focused on blood.  Specifically, we had blood testing kits so the kids could test for their blood types, a bucket o' blood (made from corn syrup, food coloring, and a bit of dishwashing liquid so that hopefully it will wash out easily), and our lab book which guided us in several activities involving dripping and spattering blood and observing drop and spatter characteristics, learning all the information one can potentially gain from blood drips and spatters.

First up, the blood testing.  They all endured finger pricks bravely and conducted the test.  There were 3 A's, one O, and one AB, with about half being RH - and half +.

Then we moved outside for the Blood Games.  It was chilly, in the mid 50's, so the "blood" was very thick.  We set the container in some hot water, but it still thickened as soon as it hit a surface and did not spatter as much as they thought it would.

They dropped it from pipettes held above the surface.

 They dropped it from angles on a sliding surface to observe patterns in the drips.

They flung it from knives at the garage door ( I sure hope it cleans off ok!).

I'm not sure how much they will retain about the characteristics of blood from a biology standpoint, the statistics on the different blood types and blood factors, the formula for acceleration of something dropped, or the trigonometry involved in determining the location of the origination of a drop or group of spatters -- but they sure had fun flinging the simulated blood around.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Roasted Balsamic Spaghetti Squash and Sneak Peak of New Chicken Coop

We have had some absolutely beautiful autumn days here lately -- bright sunshine, pleasantly warm daytime temperatures, chilly nights, and I believe our leaves are at peak color now.  We are supposed to have severe storms tonight and a serious chill down tomorrow, with frosts almost every morning this coming week.  So I've been working hard to winterize the garden and get this coop finished!

I made a fabulous balsamic roasted spaghetti squash dish, topped with roasted veggies and smoked sausage.

Balsamic Roasted Spaghetti Squash:

I prick the squash in a few areas and set in a 400 degree oven for 10 or 15 minutes, then take it out.  Then it is easier to cut in half and take the seeds out.  Place the squash halves cut side down in a rimmed pan, pour a cup of water, 2 Tablespoons olive oil, and 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar on top of the squash.  Roast at 400 degrees for about 50 minutes to an hour.

Take it out of the oven and scraped out the squash flesh with a fork into a large bowl, add another Tablespoon of olive oil, a cup of parmesan cheese, salt and pepper and rosemary and mix it all up.

While the squash is roasting, you can roast a pan full of vegetables -- I cut up onions, potatoes, carrots, and threw in some of those mini multi colored peppers, stir in some olive oil, salt and pepper and I used some Greek Seasonings from Penzey's -- roast these for about 35 or 40 minutes, then add in pre-cooked sausage cut up, and let it go another 15 minutes or so.

This is one of those dinners that can help clear out the fridge and pantry of vegetables that need to be used up, and can be endlessly varied -- with or without meat.

Linking up to Farmgirl Friday

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Green Tomato Casserole

Expected low last night of close to freezing, so I picked most of my green tomatoes (along with a bouquet of roses) from the plants in the garden.  I had picked a huge bowl full last week in anticipation of a frost (which did not materialize), but lots still remained.

Generally I like to can green tomato pickles or make a green tomato chutney from all the little end of season green tomatoes, but this past weekend I made a green tomato casserole to take to the end of season harvest dinner at the CSA we participate in.  The CSA is located in a small town about an hour away, at a "farm" that encompasses portions of two essentially city lots, of maybe 2 acres or so -- raised beds, hoop houses, chickens, turkeys and rabbits, a portion of one lot being taken up by the old 1800's victorian house, complete with gothic gables, decorative wood scallops on the walls of the gables, front porch made for "settin' out" on, original wood floors, and cozy parlor.

(and across the street the was a vacant 100 yr old bungalow style house, 4 bedrooms, all fixed up inside, on a 1 acre lot -- asking price $45,000!!)

But, back to the green tomatoes.  Here's the recipe (or receipt, as they used to say down here in the south 100 years ago):


Slice up 6 to 8 large green tomatoes (or a zillion little ones, as I did);

Mix up a cup of breadcrumbs with 3/4 cup of parmesan cheese, some chopped parsley and basil, and 1/4 cup melted butter;

1 to 1 1/2 cup of ricotta cheese (or goat cheese, or feta cheese -- whatever you like or have handy)

Layer half of the green tomatoes in a buttered 9x13 pan, salt and pepper to taste, follow with half the cheese, then half the breadcrumbs mixture, then repeat the layers.

Bake uncovered in a 350 degree oven for about 45 or 50 minutes.

It was a huge hit at the CSA potluck -- we brought home an empty pan.

Linking to Farmgirl Friday

Saturday, November 3, 2012

November Calendar Challenge

Wow -- almost to the end of the year!  I can't believe I have kept up with the 366 Calendar Challenge over at The Kathryn Wheel.  To recap, each month the participants in the challenge create a calendar page and then journal a little bit about each day in any way they choose.  At the end of the year one has created an intensely personalized and artistic calendar, filled with little memories of each day.

Here is my October spread all filled in:

and a separate view of each page:

And here is November, not too terribly late:

I was kind of stumped for ideas for November, so glued on torn pieces of some scrapbooking paper one of my kids was given several years ago.  I didn't like that much, so I covered it all with some gesso, then I squirted on some ink sprays -- of which I only have two colors, and not very autumnal at that -- but then November is such an odd month here in Memphis anyways -- we have had temps in the mid 30's (no hard freeze yet, but often we have by now), and now today was in the 80's.  Tonight it is storming, tomorrow will be cold.  We get our peak color in November, but all the leaves usually get blown off the trees by storms (as they are tonight), and we have had our most violent killer tornadoes in November.  A Dickensian month ("It was the best of times.  It was the worst of times . . .", sandwiched between Halloween and Thanksgiving.

I drew a tree in the center, but didn't like it much.  I grabbed some paper scraps, including crumpled strips of paper sacks and glued them on the edges, along with some dollar store silk leaves.  I decided to segment the branches for the days of the month -- but it's all wrong for the number of weeks and number of days, so I'll just kind of ad lib each week.  You can see the 3 days of this first week of November on the left-most branch, with the extra tree segments just doodled in.

I think it all finally came together rather nicely.  In fact, it might be my favorite spread thus far, because of all the texture and different components.

Be sure to check out The Kathryn Wheel and check out the pages created by all the participants.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Purple Asian Yams/Sweet Potatoes and Zucchini Carbonara

Some mysterious purple sweet potatoes or yams were included in our CSA share last week.  They were given to Susan (the CSA farmer) by a Vietnamese woman who said they were "Asian sweet potatoes". However, some people had cooked them and said they didn't like them much, that they weren't very sweet potato like.

Here in the south, the terms "yams" and "sweet potatoes" are used interchangeably -- however, though the tubers appear somewhat similar, they are from completely different botanical families.  Sweet potatoes are in the morning glory family, and are typically bright orange and sweet.  Yams are in a different family, come in a number of different colors, and are generally more starchy and less sweet.  Besides orange and yellow yams, there are purple skinned purple flesh yams, and purple skinned white flesh yams.  The purple yams seem to be Asian -- from Korea, Philippines, and Vietnam -- from what I could find out.  So I decided to fix them in a somewhat Asian way.

I didn't think to take a picture (or make a post) until after I had peeled them, but this is what the peels looked like -- the skin was a kind of pinkish purple.

I cut the tubers into planks, kind of like large french fries.

I put them in a 9x13 pan, along with a sliced up red onion and some small whole sweet peppers and tossed it all with some coconut oil, salt and pepper and roasted it in a 400 degree oven for about 40 minutes.  Then I drizzled on some chipotle raspberry sauce from Costco, and some chopped basil, cilantro, and parsley from my herb garden and roasted it for another 5 or so minutes.  Delicious!

The taste and texture of these what I believe to be yams, rather than sweet potatoes, was much like roasted parsnips.  If these grow well here in zone 7b, that would be great -- because it is very difficult to grow parsnips here, and they are always very expensive in the grocery stores.

That night I also made a zucchini carbonara -- thinly, wide sliced strips of zucchini, lightly sauteed in olive oil with some garlic, with a carbonara sauce of eggs, beaten with parmesan and lots of pepper, and crumbled bacon added at the end.