Friday, June 25, 2010

Watermelon pickles

"Remember, the bread you meet each day is still rising. Don't scare the dough." (Macrina Wiederkehr) 

Now that we have a garden and a house in which to store canned goods, I can't wait to "put up" a bunch of food this summer. I started with watermelon pickles. These are made from the rinds of watermelon you have already eaten, so really a great opportunity to make something out of nothing (or at least out of something you would probably throw away.)

I remember eating these growing up; they are a sweet pickle. But I always thought the recipe was my Grandma Werrell's (Mom's side) but it's my Grandma Doris' (Dad's side.) My sister made some a few years ago and I learned from her mistake. You have to use a potato peeler to remove the hard, green part of the rind first.

Here's the recipe (don't be afraid just because it starts, "Day 1")"
Watermelon Pickles
Day 1: Cut rind from melon, cut into pieces and cover with water. Boil until melon can be pierced easily with fork. Drain. Mix 7 c. sugar, 1 pint vinegar (I used the pint canning jar to measure) and 1/4 tsp. each oil of cinnamon and oil of cloves. (My sister bought this at an old-fashioned drug store). Bring to a boil and pour over melon. Refrigerate.
Day 2: Drain syrup; bring to a boil and pour over melon. Refrigerate again.
Day 3: Same as Day 2.
Day 4: Bring melon and syrup to a boil. Pack pickles and syrup into jars. Process and seal for canning. (I just followed the directions on the canning lid box.) I boiled for 5 minutes and all the jars "pinged" within a few minutes of removal.

I used about half of the rind from one of those smaller, seedless watermelons, which made about 6 small jars (pints and jelly jars) and seemed to be about right for the amount of syrup. I tasted one and they are yummy. Just like I remember!

Anyone else ever made or eaten these pickles? Next: jelly with raspberries from our own bushes!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Best Daddy Hands Down

"There are some things you learn best in the calm, and some in storm." (Willa Cather)

Happy Father's Day, first of all, to my Dad, who is recovering from surgery so not having the greatest day, but who I hope will feel better when we see him over the 4th. And to my husband, who is such a wonderful Daddy to our two little ones. They are so lucky to get so much time with him, though I know it is sometimes very hard. And to my godfather, who is still living, and my grandfathers, who are not. And to my daughter's godfather (Sam has only godmothers). Finally to all the new fathers, fathers-to-be and waiting adoptive fathers--and of course to our children's biological fathers.

Some recent pix of the kids in the back yard. Sam is getting to be such a big boy, although he likes to say he's a baby. 

And Sophie, who's always pointing at something. She has a few words; can't wait till she has more. She's not as "laid back," ahem, as she was when we first brought her home, but she's still a cutie. 

**Oops. Forgot to mention the hand-made gift. I love anything with kids' handprints. I stole this idea from my sister, who made sweatshirts for godparents and grandparents when her kids were little. Ed got some free time on Sunday for a long bike ride, then we all went to a local street fair to hear some music and to Garcia's for some Mexican food.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Crib Bumper to Valence: A Tutorial

"God is something so simple: always to live for others, never to seek one’s own advantage." (Dag Hammarskj√∂ld, Markings)

I'm pretty excited about the valences I just finished for our kids' room. I'm really trying to do this room on a budget, so I didn't want to spend anything on window treatments. But the dirty old off-white curtains left by the old owners were heavy and ugly. One night while lying in bed trying to get Sam to sleep, the idea came to me: to turn his old crib bumper into valences. (I also write some of my articles in my head while waiting for him to fall asleep!)

I already knew the fabric would match, since we were using the same paint color as his old nursery. The next day I measured the windows and the bumper and realized they would fix EXACTLY. Wow, meant to be! It was pretty simple. Here's how I did it:

First I removed the ties from the bottom of the bumper, using a seam ripper. (This is the other side of the bumper, a green gingham. The flip side is a green and white toile.)

Then I resewed those ties at the top, equidistant from the existing ties. 

It took me awhile to figure out how to fix the rough edges where I had cut the bumper to make it into two valences. Then I remembered that the crib set had come with a matching comforter, which we had never used. 

I got out the seam ripper again and removed some of the solid terrycloth binding from the comforter. Then I stitched it on the rough edges of the two valences. I did all this by hand. The stitches were easily hidden in the terrycloth fabric.

Voila! I tied the valences on to the curtain rods from our old bedroom in the condo. The windows now look great--with a new coat of white paint (Vaspar's glossy latex, which I have to say is better than my beloved Benjamin Moore, just as the paint store guy said) and new vinyl shades. I considered getting nice, insulating cellular blinds, but they were just too expensive--and we have five individual windows in this bedroom (a group of three, and a group of two--hence, to valences). Plus I'm assuming one of the kids will probably ruin these, and at $10 a pop, I won't be so mad. 

We're almost done with this room--just have to get the crown molding and baseboard, paint and install it, and strip and stain the doors. I'm finishing the radiator cover tomorrow. 

**Hopefully no one notices that on the smaller valence, the toile pattern is upside down. I could remove all those ties and put them on the right side, but I'm too lazy!

Sunday, June 06, 2010

How does your garden grow?

"There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." (Albert Einstein)

One of the most exciting parts of finally living in a single-family home is the possibility of having a garden that's not just in pots and flowerboxes. This year we decided to just experiment with some inexpensive options and see what happens. Our main plot runs from  along the fence with our neighbor (who has a very green thumb), from the back of the house to the alley. The previous owners left a big peony and a bunch of hostas. A lot of the neighbor's daylillies cross through the fence. I put a little herb garden at the end near the house and a few tomatoes halfway to the alley. This area gets pretty decent sun all day, except for the shade from some of our neighbor's plants.

Then there's this area along the garage. I put an assortment of tomatoes (some heirloom, plum, tomato and whatever was on sale at Jewel) and a pepper plant. This doesn't get morning sun because of the garage, but is pretty bright the rest of the day. We also put in three strawberry plants given to us by the aforementioned green-thumbed neighbor. 

Along the fence with our other neighbors, to the south, there are a ton of raspberries near the garage and then some roses. Apparently before he got ill, the previous owner liked roses. I'm not a fan of them, and I gave one plant that was too close to where the kids play to our neighbor. He replanted it along the fence, so I'll still get to enjoy the blooms withou the kids getting pricked by the throrns. I'll probably leave these ones along the other fence and see what happens. I would like to move the peony over here, though. It's too big and hangs over the sidewalk. But I've heard sometimes they stop blooming after you move them. 

Finally, we have this little bed against the house. At the far right is a black tulip that came up this spring! And that's a piece of siding that has fallen off the porch. Ed put some flowers that were leftover from the front back here. This gets decent sun except in late afternoon.

We didn't do much in the front, where Ed had removed two big bushes that were blocking our front windows. The stumps are still there, so we just planted some flowers around them. The front is very shady, so I might move some of our extra hostas there. I need to think about what we want in the front before we spent a bunch of money. Ed also put some grass seed there, so the front "lawn" (it's about 5 feet by 5 feet) looks a little better. He's really interested in landscaping and gardening, so I'll let it be his thing, although I would like to grow herbs and vegetables. I'm already dreaming of canning tomatoes!

Friday, June 04, 2010

Speaking of birthdays...

"It takes a long time to grow young." (Pablo Picasso)

Thanks for the birthday wishes. I had a great day at a book conference, where I signed copies of my book and met with both of my publishers, plus heard a great speaker and had a nice dinner. Thanks to my husband, who made it possible by watching the kids all day and night.

A week ago we celebrated another important birthday--that of our friends' Karen and Jeff's twins. I have made them handmade gifts before, and this year was no different. I decided to whip up two felty birthday crowns, much like the one I made for Sam last year

Mesfin's was his favorite color (orange) with a brown star decoration, and Mari's was her favorite color (pink) with a cupcake on the front. 

I had two very willing models during my photo shoot! (I have no idea what that is in her mouth!)

Their birthday celebration was at one of my favorite restaurants, Ethiopian Diamond. Yummy food, and lots of fun with other adoptive families and kids running around! Happy 6th birthday, Mari and Mesfin!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Catching up

"We have to fight them daily, like fleas, those many small worries about the morrow, for they sap our energies." (Etty Hillesum)

Sophie and cousin Katie in the hotel pool

Lots of worrying about the "morrow" here, since I go back to work next Monday (or rather my class starts then. I'm already "back to work" prepping my class.) Also trying to finish up some home improvement in the kids' room. Progress has been made. I'll have photos soon.

 Sam and Daddy at Alma bridge before scary train came

We had a wonderful two days in Wisconsin over Memorial Day weekend. We drove, with the kids, to LaCrosse to meet up with all the Peltos to see "5,000 pounds," a play about the Vietnam War written by my cousin's husband. It was really quite good--funny but also thoughtful and moving. Then Saturday we drove up the Mississippi River, which was beautiful. The bluffs are the closest thing the Midwest has to mountains! Then to Mondovi to visit my Aunt Pat and godparents Betty and Mike. A long drive home Saturday night, but the kids were troopers and it was worth it. 

 Sophie and Betty during Mondovi visit

I did a little knitting in the car (and some reading for class), working on Sophie's purple Daisy sweater. Lately, I've done a few dishcloths, just because we need them for wiping down the kids after meals. I liked this pattern, Mandarin Lemon, though it took up quite a bit of yarn (more than one skein of Peaches and Cream). It's a big and thick cloth, though.

Now I'm working on "A Little Lace," but I keep getting confused on the lace pattern.

Tomorrow, I turn 46. Yikes!