Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Fresh from....the freezer?

Last Summer we picked and froze a lot of corn. I have always cut it off the cob to freeze it but last year I thought I would try freezing a dozen right on the cob, just to see if they would taste good. (I love corn on the cob - my mom likes to tell a story of me at two sneaking off behind the camper to eat the cold leftover corn out of the cooler.) Well, we decided to try some the other day. They looked lovely, the taste was actually very good...but the texture was disappointing to me. It seemed somehow watery, not crisp. So, even though E quite liked it (he has my corn loving genes), I don't think I would use the freezer space to do this again. I will stick with cutting it off the cob because the texture is much better that way.
Still, we enjoyed it well enough, especially with a curry (somewhat modified) from John Bishop's cookbook Fresh.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Rhubarb and apple muffins

I picked up the February issue of Harrowsmith Country Life from the library on Friday and decided to try out the apple rhubarb muffin recipe they had published. My rhubarb is growing quickly in the garden now and so I wanted to make sure all of last year's rhubarb was used up out of the freezer.I intentionally doubled all the other ingredients but added a little less sugar than the single recipe called for. I have this thing about muffins being muffins, not cupcakes and so I don't like them to be super sweet. I tried one as soon as they were done and thought that the boys might not like them because they were definitely not very sweet, so I was pleasantly surprised when W declared them the best muffins ever and E agreed that he really liked them too. I think the secret to success was that instead of using sugar and butter in the crumble topping I used a bit of maple syrup and coconut oil.
**I also used grapeseed oil instead of melted butter in the batter, oats instead of wheat germ, and I grated the apples instead of using chunks (it made for really moist muffins).

Friday, April 25, 2008

Learning at home

There are so many things that I love about learning at home with my boys, so many benefits that I could never list them all...I probably couldn't even begin to imagine them all. One benefit that has always been clear to me though, is how close my children are because of this time together. Of course they have their moments of discord - who doesn't? But those are few and far between. E adores his big brother and W loves his little brother.

Yesterday afternoon W went for dinner and a evening at the pool with a friend. E was sad when they left and spent some time on his own (I didn't know what he was doing) then he came up and seemed content. Later that night I asked him to get his jammies on; when he came up to brush his teeth he asked if he could phone W to find out when he would be home. I was just about to remind him that W was in the pool (not the best place for a phone call) when we heard the door open. E called out for W and ran to the door for a big hug and I could tell that W was pleased to be missed. Isn't that what we all want in life? To love, to be loved for who we are, and to be known? It made my heart so glad to see them.

When W sat down for a second dinner (swimming makes you hungry, don't you know) E gave him another hug and a card that he had made earlier. Here it is.
On the front is a picture of E with tears because he is missing W. Inside are pictures of both of them going out to bounce on the trampoline together. See the happy faces? When you ask people what is the most important thing in life, most people will say their family, their health, their friends/sense of community. If someone were to ask me what my kids are learning by "homeschooling", I think that I could say that they are learning one of the most important things life has to offer.
**I love this so much that I had to post it on both blogs. :-)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

To feel a connection

For me, it is of utmost importance that my kids feel a connection to the Earth; I believe it is one of the most important life lessons that I can help them to learn. I do not believe that we can expect people to truly care for our earth if they have no personal relationship with nature. I feel quite certain that time spent outdoors is vital to good health. I also believe that there is no easier way to instill a sense of wonder and feelings of peace and joy in our children than to get outdoors. We are coming into the time of year when we come inside to get food and to sleep...that is about it. Most of the rest of the time we will be outdoors; that is the way I spent my childhood and it is one of my wishes for my own children. Most of our time outdoors is spent just playin'. The boys will often help me in the garden or we will get to work on some project. The other day we got our nature notebooks out again. We were inspired to do so when reading this book. Both boys got in on the action and quickly marked off their squares in my flower gardens (Hey, watch my tulips!!! The whole huge yard and you guys have to choose to put your squares in my flower beds?) The idea is that you mark off a square and then observe all the action going on throughout the year. They can record anything of interest in their notebooks. E quickly found some critters in his square and made a list in his book. See his baby millipede there.W decided that he would gather all our identification guides so that we could put them all in a basket with our notebooks, binoculars, magnifying glass and pencils. While we were out there reading some other interesting nature books he noticed a bird in our hazelnut tree. We had noticed the same kind in our garden a few times last year but hadn't identified it. The bird book was right there in the basket and so we took it out and realized that it was a yellow-rumped warbler. We spent some time sketching and then got back to some more reading.

Fruit and nut bar recipe

Edited to add: where it says finely chopped, I mean really finely chopped. I use the food processor or the vita-mix to almost grind the fruit and nuts, this way the bars hold together really well.

Alright, try this:

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups oats
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup oil (grape seed works well)
2 cups finely chopped walnuts
1 1/2 cups finely chopped raisins
1 cup finely chopped dates
3/4 cup applesauce
enough water to make it into a slightly sticky dough - probably between 1/4 - 1/2 cup depending on how thick your applesauce was
**optional - ground flax seed, cinnamon

Mix first 3 ingredients then add oil. Add raisin, dates and nuts. Mix. Stir in applesauce then slowly add water until it gets to right consistency. Press dough into oiled 9 X 13 pan. Bake at 325 for about 30 minutes. Cut into bars.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Fruit and nut bars

We're coming into the time of year where we spend a lot of time on the go - at parks, on hikes, biking, canoeing, wherever -and it all goes that much easier if we have some food on hand. When W was a toddler I tried all kinds of recipes for granola bars; I felt that most of them had far too much sugar or too much fat to be considered a "healthy" snack. Then I came across Laurel's Kitchen cookbook (oh how I love this book, mostly just for the introduction called The Work at Hand by Carol Flinders). The book includes a recipe for raisin bars that are quite delicious as is, however I found that they would end up crumbled into a granola like mess when we had them in our backpacks. I played with the recipe a bit over the years and ended up with a fairly sturdy, no-sugar (yet very sweet), low-fat bar. They are a whole food bar made simply with oats, whole wheat flour, walnuts, raisins, dates, applesauce, some oil, water, and salt. That's it.And since the boys helped me shell a box of walnuts (grown on our backyard trees), I thought I would make a triple batch of these bars to see us through the next few weeks. They also freeze well.
BTW, if you have a walnut tree then that nutcracker pictured up top is the one to have. They work so amazingly well that they are even worth buying new...and that says a lot coming from me. ;-)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

If the temperatures won't co-operate...

We have had some bizarre weather the last few days; there has been sun, but there has also been rain, hail and a wind that felt like it was straight from the Arctic. My peas seem to be troopers though and they are poking up through the soil, on their way to sending up tendrils to their supports. However, after checking out the garden beds yesterday and seeing how teeny, tiny my little spinach, beets and lettuce sprouts are I thought that it really was high time I got some sort of cold frame. I mentioned this to W as we were sitting outside reading yesterday, and look what he made for me. Right then and there!!!
W is my 12 year old. He was my first son, and boy!! did he ever teach me about attachment parenting. I'd never heard of the term, knew nothing about it, but we were doing it nonetheless, and I would say that I was thrown in headfirst and learned from the pro - him. I often think, as I watch him grow, that all those years of being with him; nursing him whenever he wanted(read - no sleep); spending all my time with him; focusing on what he needed and not rushing him to the next stage, filled him up so fully and completely that now he is able to give so generously of himself. He is incredibly thoughtful and helpful and quite often surprises me with his consideration of others. I quite admire him.
So...I guess what I'm sayin' is look how all those years of hard work paid off, the kid makes me coldframes and helps me in my garden. Well worth it, I'd say. ;-)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Silvery Fir Tree tomato

I got the seeds for this tomato from two garden goddesses that I know. It is an heirloom variety we all read about in Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

You can see it here pictured above a regular foliage tomato; it's quite beautiful, I think.

Now, I wonder how the tomatoes will taste.

Monday, April 14, 2008

A walk in the woods.

Nature is a language, and every new fact that we learn is a new word; but rightly seen, taken all together, it is not merely a language, but the language put together into a most significant and universal book. I wish to learn the language, not that I may learn a new set of nouns and verbs, but taht I may read the great book which is written in that language.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Yesterday we went for a walk through the local regional park. It offers a lovely stroll up through the hills and along the lakeshore. I was pleased that I had brought the camera along - I was supposed to me getting mountain biking pictures of the boys but it seems I got a little off track. :-)
The arrowleaf balsamroot is one of the wild flowers of the Okanagan that I just love. It is so sunny, so cheery and so profusive.
And who doesn't love a buttercup? (Oh, that's right, I don't! Not now that I was silly and sentimental enough to think that I should transplant some from my childhood home into my current garden. Silly woman, what was I thinking?) We used to always put these under our chins to see if we liked butter, not a very precise science, I'm afraid. :-)

BTW for a hilarious read, it is hard to beat Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods, unless of course it is Bill Bryson's Notes From a Small Island. These are wet-the-pants-laughing type reads so be warned.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


He's only eight but he is saving for a house (really!) and needs to make more money.

C'mon, wouldn't you like to buy a few great ideas? As you can see the price has been reduced. Now you get, not just three but, four great ideas for only 25 cents. WOW is right.

Naughty kitty

We say "bird bath",

she says "fast food take-out".

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Less garden work equals more time at the beach

I love gardening and it really doesn't seem like work to me. boys prefer that I don't spend all my time puttering in the garden in Summer, so I like to look for methods to prevent weeds. Over the last couple of years I have become a big fan of mulching with grass clippings; this helps keep water in and weeds down. That seems like a win/win to me.

This year I decided to really stock up on mulch materials and go to town with my mulching - in a sort of Ruth Stout style. Yesterday, hubby brought this home for me...
so I decided to get to it, starting with my zucchini bed. I made four hills for my different zucchini, then put newspaper down around them. I watered this to soak it, then put some leaves and grass clippings on and watered again. In a few weeks I will put some zucchini seeds in each hill and I should have a work-free, weed-free bed. When I first started doing this I thought that it was not very visually pleasing, but actually the grass starts to break down quite quickly and the plants grow out to hide the rest of it so it ends up looking nice too.I ran out of newspaper so only got the two hills done so far. (you didn't want to read yesterday's paper anyway, did ya honey?)

If I want my zukes to get a head start, I can even put an old milk jug over top of the seeds to make a little mini greenhouse for them. Another trick that I am going to try this year is to plant some radish around this hill, that way any hungry little critters will nibble on the (dispensable) radish leaves instead of my (indispensable) new zucchini sprouts.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Frugal equals fun

In a culture that places a lot of value on the acquisition of "stuff" and the cost of that stuff, being thrifty tends to make one stand out a bit. I consider myself very thrifty, and I am quite proud to be so. It is one of the values that I very much want to model to my boys; I think that they have really absorbed this way of living and they often make remarks that show me that they understand the benefits of thrift.

We get almost everything second-hand, for me this is a way to be able to enjoy material things without feeling that we are using up ever more resources. I generally like to get things for no more than 10% of what they would cost new; that isn't a hard and fast rule but it is a general guideline that I use. Quite often my boys have asked me why anyone would pay full price for anything when they can wait and find it at the thrift store for around one-tenth of new, so I know that this lesson is sinking in. I love that they think this way. They are always quite tickled when they find bags of Lego for 50 cents; brand-new Heelys for $1; working light sabres for $2 (I wasn't as thrilled about these); Harry Potter hard-covers for $1 and so on.

The boys have been bugging us for a few years now to get a trampoline. We have put them off, waiting until E was a bit older. The bugging has ramped up just lately and so I told them that if they could find a good quality second-hand one for a reasonable price, that we would talk about it. They immediately started checking the classifieds. W found one but by the time we phoned it had sold. A few days ago they were looking again and showed me one that they had found. I recognized the name of the seller as someone my husband knew from Cub scouts, we knew that it would be a good one and well looked after. My husband phoned and we ended up with a Sundance trampoline for $75. The boys have spent the last few days bouncing, they have been heading out first thing in the morning. I'd say that we've already got our $75 out of it. :-)
My point is that, for my boys, being thrifty is not a chore; it is not about deprivation, it is about making good choices. For us, being thrifty means that we are able to do things, and get things, that we otherwise might not be able to. For my boys, frugal = fun!!!

Friday, April 4, 2008

How could I resist???

I went to the thrift store to get stitch markers. I mean, have a look at this...I need some stitch holders. Doesn't just looking at it give you a headache? I know!So how come I came home with this? It was calling my name, I tell you. No...really, even W heard it. We didn't even get into the store before we heard it calling from the lower lot. W and I looked at it, looked at each other and then he convinced me that I had to have it. I actually left the store, went to the car, and then went back. He has told me that he will fix it all up for me.

And just look at that really, could you have just left the poor thing sitting the cold...all by itself?

Tomato plant secrets

My neighbour came over last week and told me a "little secret" that her Italian tomato-growing friend had shared with her. When his tomatoes have their second set of leaves, he replants them up to their "shoulders". He told her it makes for a stronger, hardier plant. I often plant a large portion of the tomato stem horizontally when I put it out in the garden but I had never heard of re-potting them when they are so young. I was looking through another gardening book yesterday and the author mentioned transplanting tomatoes twice; then he still plants the stem horizontally in the garden.

So, since mine were looking pretty spindly anyway, I am giving it a try. I re-potted some yesterday and will see how they do. E planted some watermelon seeds indoors and also some ornamental milkweed. The crocus are blooming in the backyard now and the whole front yard smells of violets.

Some Spring in the garden quotes:

Spring makes its own statement, so loud and clear that the gardener seems to be only one of the instruments, not the composer. ~Geoffrey B. Charlesworth

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt. ~Margaret Atwood

And since I have been collecting mulch to do more Ruth Stout-ing in my garden.

I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden. ~Ruth Stout

And this last one, my sentiments exactly.

I think that no matter how old or infirm I may become, I will always plant a large garden in the spring. Who can resist the feelings of hope and joy that one gets from participating in nature's rebirth? ~Edward Giobbi

Thursday, April 3, 2008


On Tuesday I got to pick some nettle with a friend. I normally have to buy nettle and so this was quite a treat to just be able to go out and pick it; it's even better to pick while chatting with good company. Yesterday I set it up in the solar dryer and left it to dry. When it is done, I will pop it in a glass jar, and every time I use it for tea, I will think of a enjoyable day spent outdoors with friends.
Did you know that nettle pizza is delicious too? (Thanks Karen) There are just so many fantastic uses for "weeds". This year I plan to find new ways to use even more of them.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Another way to do bread and cheese

My local store had Jerseyland feta on sale so I thought I would try making some bread with it. I rolled the dough out into a rectangle, topped it with the cheese, some spinach and garlic. Rolled it in the same way you would if you were making cinnamon buns, but then I cut the roll lengthwise and twisted it.Looks pretty and tastes great too. Next time I would add even more filling

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Outta control

Every time I plant a strawberry bed I tell myself that I will keep it up this time. After a year or two it always ends up looking like this.I don't know how it happens, really. It seems as though one day the plants are all in nice tidy rows, and then, suddenly one day, I notice that there is just a big mat of strawberry plants. Where do they all come from?? ;-)
So, I decided to try the hill system instead, and this time, I really will keep up with it. Ahem. In the meantime, doesn't it look nice? And it is much easier to mulch too.