Monday, August 25, 2014

Cucumber Rain


As I sit here, polishing off my cucumber sandwich on homemade onion-dill bread, I am amusedly reflecting on this year's summer yields. 

This is the first year that Red Beard and I didn't plant any cucumbers. It felt strange at first, but we honestly didn't have enough buckets in our container garden.

And then, sometime during mid-June, cucumbers started pouring in from every gardener and farmer we know...

I've made countless batches of dill pickles, carved up cukes to hold tuna salad, infused gallons of water with cucumber slices, incorporated dozens of cukes into shakes and pastas and salads, and the cucumbers just continue to flow in a steady stream into our apartment.

It's kind of funny, really.
"Ok, seriously, Mom: Why are we doing this?"
Every year there is a "cash crop," as we like to call it. "Cash crop" is a real term, but it is also our family's nickname for the gardening item that is out-producing everything else--or at least making it's way into our kitchen more than everything else.

One year it was zucchini (we planted 12 plants--why didn't someone warn us?!), another year it was grapes. There was also the year of the Roma tomato. Those tomatoes made some mighty fine spaghetti sauce that winter.

But this... this is clearly the year of the cucumber, with it's fresh green (or yellow) skin and cool white flesh. And we didn't even plant any!

I thought sharing a list of our favorite recipes (and some ideas I still want to try) might prove helpful to you--in case it's the year of the cucumber in your kitchen, too.

Tested:
Cucumber Smoothies (All Smoothie Recipes)
Tuna Salad Cucumber Cups (Peas & Crayons)
Cucumber & Dill Sandwich (Peanut Butter and Peppers)
Cucumber Slices w/ Homemade Hummus (Inspired Taste)
Baked Cucumbers (Julia Child)
Crunchy Kosher Dill Pickles (Mama Economics)
-->Cucumbers are also great in pasta salads, green salads, on turkey sandwiches, etc.

To Try:
Chilled Watermelon Cucumber Feta Salad (Skinny Taste)
Cucumber & Coconut Salad (Martha Stewart)
Pineapple, Basil, & Cucumber (Martha Stewart)
Braised Cucumbers (Julia Child)
-->Any other ideas?

I hope you've enjoyed your own summer bounty, whoever's garden it came from!
--Mrs. D.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Denim & Lace Experiment

"Kitty, get back inside!" I scolded our 2-year-old orange tabby, who had adeptly bounded over my foot.

Paying me no attention whatsoever, Kitty took another giant leap in the opposite direction of our apartment, though it was not giant enough to prevent me from catching her mid-air with an even greater leap.

A-ha! I thought.

Riiiiiip! went the left leg of my favorite jeans. The sudden movement had proved too much for them to hold together any longer.

After bringing in (and further scolding) an angry cat, I inspected my jeans to discover no little tear: my pants were not to be mended.

Rather than sulking or being mad about it, I quickly decided to instead "up cycle" my torn pants into a new jean skirt. I'd been praying about incorporating more skirts into my wardrobe anyhow, and honestly, I was just grateful that this wardrobe malfunction happened when I was at home.

Due to the tear's location (mid thigh), I had to orient the skirt a bit differently from the last jean skirt I blogged about...

That skirt was oriented like this:
I had much more pant-leg to work with last time...

Anyhow, this time I made a tiered skirt, the bottom tier being a little ruffle-y (and, of course, lacy).
The best way I could figure to sew on the lace was to sew it on twice. I pinned the hem, then pinned the lace on it (yes, I sewed the hem and lace in "one fell swoop"). The first stitch I used was a plain stitch, then I used a bigger stitch to better secure the lace to the denim.
Although I'm certainly no professional seamstress, the resulting skirt looked pretty good for everyday wear.
Yes, I should have worn a lighter color on top, and yes, the camera on my computer is not as great as it could be. :)
I wish that I could say that I always have a "make lemonade" type of attitude, but the truth is that I don't. Just ask Red Beard. (Poor man!)

Having a "make lemonade" attitude is something I am working on, however. For example, Red Beard and I are still in a state of waiting for many things--one of them being children.

Now, I could sit around and sulk and feel sorry for myself or be mad at God because His timing is not the same as mine. And there are times when, I'm sorry to say, I have.

But that is selfish and sinful behavior. God gives us good things.

Several weeks ago now, I decided that while we are waiting to have or adopt kids, I will spend some time praying about our future children and actually planning for them.

I have researched how to take care of newborns and what they need. I have researched dietary needs for kids of all ages. Currently,  I'm looking at different types of homeschooling material and coming up with some of my own ideas for incorporating the Bible into our curriculum.

Do I like waiting to have kids? No.

Did I like the fact that my favorite blue jeans got ruined? No.

But using what God gives us--even if it isn't what we think we should have--is part of being a faithful steward.

A homeschooling mom of 6, who is a close personal friend of mine, made a comment a few weeks ago that totally challenged my thoughts on the waiting department (without her even knowing it). I asked her how she has handled certain subjects in homeschool, while assuring her Red Beard and I are NOT with child.

She said, "I think it's great that you all are planning things now. I wish I had had more time to plan things for mine."

It made me think, Hmmm. I guess time is a blessing.
Time to think things through.
Time to conduct research.
Time to get on the same page about how to raise our kids.
And, most importantly, time to pray

Sometimes, my friends, we think we are being punished, but honestly, God's timing is best. I hope you believe that.

Having time to plan for our future kids is good. Having an extra skirt for the rest of the summer is also good.

>>What do you have?

Make Yourself Some Lemonade,
--Mrs. D.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

What a Peach!

Yes, yes. I've been MIA for a little while. The canning season has gotten crazy busy in the last couple of weeks, plus we've had Red Beard's birthday, a visit from his mother (who lives out of state), Red Beard's final exams for summer classes, a yard sale, a major purge/re-vamp of the living room and kitchen, and a broken-down truck.

Somewhere in the midst of all this zaniness, too, my camera died. I didn't drop it or submerge it or anything. I just turned it on one day, and the screen went white. LOL!

Even as I type this, I am not angry or super upset about the camera. Things break, and that's part of life! While it does mean that I will have to use more creative methods to share things on my blog until I get a new camera, there are much worse things that can go wrong in life. Amen?

Anyhoo, I first wanted to share the links for the recipes I've canned this year so far. They have all turned out fantastic!

I've made: 
Kosher Dill Pickles (I used dill SEEDS), 
and--I'll share it again because it's so simple--Freezer Tomatoes.

Then there's today's bounty mentioned in the title: PEACHES!

I think that out of everything we can year-to-year, peaches end up being my favorite because in the midst of dreary winter weather, preserved peaches give me a taste of summer and a taste of happiness--knowing warmer days are on the way!

Here's the "BEFORE" photo of this year's peaches:


These are some of the prettiest (and juiciest) peaches we've ever had to can! And for some reason, I didn't think the yield on these babies would be so high.

Using a little under a peck (because a few were consumed prior to today), we ended up with 9 pints of sliced peaches (canned in 100% apple juice, instead of syrup)...
Yes, this is only 7 cans. 2 are in the fridge because we're going to use them for breakfast shakes tomorrow through Tuesday.
...AND a peach cobbler that I'm going to freeze (sorry, no link on this one!)...
This will be a welcomed treat in October or November!
...AND a loaf of peach bread for breakfasts later this week.

This quick bread recipe is one I based loosely on a recipe from the Better Homes & Gardens: New Cookbook. I found the recipe online so you could see the original.

If you want to make this peach bread, though, here's what to do:
PEACH QUICK BREAD: Combine 1 cup of wheat flour, 1 cup of all purpose flour, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 1/2 cup of white sugar, 1 Tablespoon of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. Make a well in the center. 
In a separate bowl, combine 1 cup of apple juice, 1 egg, and 1/4 cup of olive oil. Pour in the center of the well and mix. Once most of the flour is incorporated, mix in 1 cup of peach slices (loosely packed). 
Pour the batter into a greased 8x4 loaf pan, and bake at 350-deg. for 45-55 minutes. Cool in pan for a few minutes, then finish cooling on a rack.

Our shelves (and our freezer) are quickly filling up... Praise God for the blessings of a garden, generous farmer friends, and the provision of food for the winter!

I hope you're enjoying the sunny days of summer.

Love,
--Mrs. D.