Friday, June 27, 2008

Summer isn't ALL bad.

I am not a summer person. As a matter of fact, I think I have reverse seasonal mood disorder...or whatever it's called. Summer gets me down. In the winter, just the thought of summer gets me down. Give me winter any day. I love the cold, the rain, the storms, the gray skies, they make me happy. I feel good and refreshed and rejuvenated in the winter.
However, due to my interest in gardening and my desire to grow my own food and preserve it, I am gaining a new outlook on summer. I still don't like it. And will take rain any day of the year. But at least growing a garden and challenging myself to buy local is something to look forward to in these hot, miserable months.
This fruit salad is 66% local. The cantaloupe came from the fruit stand less than a mile from my home. The berries came from my friend Stephanie's farm. And the watermelon...well, that came from Lucky. As far as where they got it, I haven't a clue as I forgot to read the sticker. I'm sure it's somewhere very far away and used tons of power and fuel just to get to little ol' me. What can I say? The fruit stand wasn't open yet and MY watermelon plant was about 4 inches tall. store it was. I'm getting step at a time.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

My beginner's effort to go GREEN.

This year I planted a few things in my backyard. It's my beginner's effort to live a more self-sustaining lifestyle. My goal is to grow much of my own food, as well as enough to preserve for over the weekend...eventually. But for now...this is a good start!
Here we have a dwarf Meyer lemon. I love Meyer lemons...a LOT. I got a dwarf so that I could grow it as a patio plant...and take it with me when we move.
Here we have some beans we grew from seed. So far they seem pretty happy and comfortable.

This is my little melon patch. Apparently, the words "little" and "melon patch" don't really go together as these vining plants really like some room to spread out. But, this is where they are...hopefully they'll "bloom where they're planted"!This is a close up of one of my squash plants and more beans in the forefront. I love how the sun shines through the pretty.
This is a view of my raised beds along my deck. You can see the melon patch in the distance back near the shed. The pots on the steps to the deck are full of herbs...basil, thyme, rosemary, sage, parsley, cilantro, marjoram...beautiful.
You may have also noticed the dead grass in the background. Soon, soon, soon this will be replaced with beautiful green sod.
There are some things I will do differently next plant the beans near the cucumbers rather than by the squash. I grow the cukes on upside down tomato cages so that they'll climb. Doing it this way will leave just enough room for some bean plants in the same raised bed. This way I can grow the squash in the other raised bed, plant two plants right in the middle and let them sprawl to their hearts content!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Kitchen Project. Before.

By now you may have noticed that I am easily distracted. I lovingly refer to this problem as Adult ADD. This would explain why I am beginning a new series, The Kitchen Project, before doing anything with the aforementioned "series", The Nightstand. I'm going to do it. I am. But, I don't have it all together yet so in the meantime I'm going to share with you the progress of my kitchen update.

This is my kitchen as of yesterday...notice the bag of recycling, papers and junk on the countertop and, if you look real close, a filthy floor! The basket on the island os overflowing with fruit and snacks and chip clips and heaven only KNOWS what else.

As you enter into the kitchen the sink area is on the right. Notice the crowded counter top and the sink full of dishes. Typical day at my house. My husband and I are trying to find a new sink we agree on. He wants stainless, I want porcelain. He wants single bowl, I want double bowl. His argument for the single bowl is a good one...but the idea of having two bowls, one open for use and one for the inevitable dirty pot or pan I just can't seem to ever get rid of...this is what works for me. And I can't help but remind him that I am the one who uses it the most and cleans it the most. Therefore, I think I should be able to choose what I want to look at for the next however many years we'll be there...don't you think?
Now, if we pan around to the left...we'll see the biggest problem area in my tiny little kitchen. Are you ready? It's a bit if you are squeamish, you may want to close your eyes. Ready? OK...I warned you...

This, my friends, is the area behind my island. As you can see my hutch is overflowing. Literally. You will also notice that this is the pet feeding center. Dog food in the big bag, cat food in the plastic bucket. Dog feeding area on the floor, cat feeding area on the hutch because if we don't do it that way, the dog will eat ALL of the food and then the cat will get very irritated and bat the dog around with her paw. It's not pretty.

Eventually this whole space will be replaced with a beautiful white pantry in a hutch style. I am so excited about it as it will provide some much needed storage space. And it will look neat and orderly doing it. It will have enclosed cabinets along the bottom to store my larger appliances such as the Kitchenaid and Cuisinart and even my new (to me) food dehydrator! This is going to free up my counter space immensely...this alone makes me one happy woman.

The top will hold serving dishes and platters, cookbooks, a few little things the boys made in school...all in the two middle cabinets that will have glass doors. The outer two cabinets will be solid doors and will house pantry items such as canned goods and baking supplies. It is going to be amazing and I can hardly wait for it to be a reality.

The stove area is quite small, as you can see. Fortunately, once the storage hutch is built it will house much of what you see on these counters...platters, cookie sheets, the Cuisinart. The crocks will stay on the counter since they hold my utensils. But it will be a huge improvement once the BIG stuff is stored away.
This project has been a long time coming. It's almost unbelievable that we are actually going to DO it. It's been a tough decision as this is not our forever least we would prefer it wasn't. So these improvements are for us while we are still here as well as for resale improvements for eventual sale. But, if it turns out that we live here forever, I'll be OK with that. There was a time that I wouldn't have been. But I can honestly say that I could live with that...happily. Especially with a cute, spiffed up kitchen.

The fruit of my labor...

Here it is! My first attempt at homemade apricot jam! Isn't it beautiful? I love it. I have to admit, it came out a bit thicker than I'd like. But it tastes good...and that's the important part. I can work on the consistency as I continue making more and more jam.
I've already given away a few jars of the apricot and we're down to two jars left of the strawberry. My younger son went into a minor panic that we were running low. I assured him we'd make more...soon!
Next on the canning list...peaches and pickles. And jam, of course!

Monday, June 23, 2008

The road to you-know-where is paved with good intentions.

I have so many plans and ideas and desires and things I want to do and need to do and plan to do...but inevitably, life takes over and before I know it my day is gone.
I have lots to write about here. I still want to do My Nightstand. I have pictures of my very own homemade jam that I want to share. And pretty soon, I will have before and after pictures of my newly updated kitchen! I won't say remodeled as I am not going to change my cabinetry. They were spruced up a few years ago and are still cute. I am, however, replacing floors and countertops and I can NOT wait! My husband and I purchased beautiful new granite (what a bargain that was!) and some nice, neutral coordinating tile for the floor. I think it's going to be gorgeous. My husband is also going to build me (it's already half done actually!) a large pantry/hutch for one wall in my tiny kitchen. Right now I have a hutch there...a hand-me-down from my aunt years ago...and while it's cute and provides some's not all that practical. The unit my husband is going to build is way more utilitarian and way more cute! I'll definitely share before and after pictures. I'm hoping this will all take place in the next few weeks...we'll see. My husband is a cabinet maker by trade...we own our own customers come first. I'm like the cobbler's child...the last to get shoes! Good thing I don't mind going barefoot!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Love is a bird's nest and a box of apricots.

Over the weekend our church held a bazaar. I sat and peddled my art while others sold fudge and tamales and jewelry and sewn goods and plants...there was tons of stuff! But my favorite table was my friend Stephanie's. It was overflowing with fruits and vegetables and brown eggs...all from her garden in the country. I had no idea she was into this kind of life! We talked and talked and talked...about eggs and chickens and jams. We were kindred spirits right then and there. It's strange, I've known her for several years now and never knew she lived in the country and gardened and canned...all of the things I long to do! When the day was over we said our goodbye's, exchanged numbers and emails and promised to exchange recipes and talk about this amazing way of life sometime again, soon!
Well, on Sunday she called to let me know she had a big box of apricots from her tree for me. She left a message on my machine saying she thought sure there'd be enough for a batch of jam and that they were waiting in the garage for me...and for me to feel free to come on out and grab them. She and her hubby were going to be out of town so she allowed me in the "secret entrance". I was so excited as I listened to the message and was having visions of apricots dancing in my head when I heard her say, "Oh, there's also a beautiful little bird's nest in the box. I found it this morning while trimming the roses and just knew that it was for you. I felt it was a reminder of a promise that God has made to you."

Huh? Whuh? A bird's nest? For me? How did she know? She couldn't have known. There's no way. There's no way she would know that I love birds...and birds nests...and that I have a small collection. There's no way. And she definitely doesn't know about the promise.

Wow. I was stunned. And I listened to the message with my mouth hanging open, tears streamed down my face. My husband and boys were watching me and one of my boys said, "Um, is there something you're not telling us?" And my husband replied, "No. It's fine. God is just telling Mom that He loves her."
It was an amazing moment. I was blown away. And I couldn't get out to her place in the country fast enough to gather my fruit and my promise! The box is BIG, and the apricots are plenty. And the nest? It's beautiful...and intricate...and delicate...and complex...and perfect. God is in the little things...that's for sure.

Monday, June 16, 2008

What's on Your Nightstand?

I was getting ready the other morning and caught a glimpse of my nightstand. It's brimming over with books, magazines, lotions, potions, journals, sticky notes...and yes, some dust! One look made me think, "Wow, a person could just come in here, take a look at everything on my nightstand and really get an understanding of who I am, what I like (lotions), what I don't like (dusting!)..."
Because of that thought process, I've decided to do a small series on the contents of My Nightstand. I'll talk about what's on My Nightstand and what I think it says about me. In doing so, maybe you'll be able to learn a little bit about me. Heck, maybe I'll learn a little bit about my SELF.
Stay tuned...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Taking recycling a step further.

Today I will stop in at my favorite local thrift store, The Opportunity House. My new friend, Francine, who works there (that's where I met her actually and we're not really friends but it's fun to say anyway) is bringing in a stash of used canning jars for me to buy. I am so excited. I have no idea the sizes...I only know they're "wide mouth". I wonder if she's implying something?
Shopping used is not a new concept to me. I have been a thrift store, yard sale, flea market shopper for a little over 20 years now. I was first introduced to the flea market by my friend, Melissa. Her father owned a junk yard (that I actually worked at for a time...but that's a whole other story!) and they would go to the flea market looking for used auto parts to sell at their shop. Occasionally I'd go along, finding treasures like vintage women's hats with moth-eaten netting, wooden shoe forms, old mirrors and fire extinguishers...all of which I still have today. I was definitely bit by the bug...and it stuck.
What I'm finding is that recycling is more than tossing paper and plastic into a big, blue bin. And don't get me wrong...this is good, too. I do it everyday. I am just challenging myself, and you if you're feeling up to it, to take it to the next level. And start small. I am. Every little bit helps, right? Instead of running to one of the large home centers for a flower pot, try the local thrift store and use your creative eye to find something unique to hold those flowers instead. An old willow basket? An old rubber boot? An old rusty pot? The possibilities are endless.
And while you're doing that, I'll be picking up my boxes of used canning jars...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Give a Girl a Fig.

Welcome to Give a Girl a Fig. Join me in my quest to simplify my life and the life of my family. I will be learning to grow my own vegetables, preserve food for the winter and challenge myself to buy (whatever I don't grow myself, of course) as much as I possibly can from suppliers within a 70 mile radius of my home.
I am just getting started...and will chronicle my adventures, experiments, mishaps and successes here, at Give a Girl a Fig.