The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. ~ Psalm 16:6 nasb

Friday, July 31, 2015

Mid July in My Garden

July 17.

Before we left on vacation, I needed to check on things in the garden.  My green bean plants were producing, so I knew I had to pick before we left.  Danny and Thomas were staying behind, so I knew they'd be able to do it for the week I was missing.

Perfect for picking!!

This was the second time this week I had picked, and I got a huge bowl full.  I would take these to New York with us.

It has been a really slow year for my tomatoes, for some reason.  I found a few with blossom end rot, but otherwise they're looking great--except for not ripening.  The cooler weather is probably a factor, so hopefully the tomatoes will hold off until I get back.  The guys had instructions to pick any red ones--or yellow in the case of the Summer Peach variety in the below image--while I was gone.

Summer Peach--these will soon be yellow!

My heirloom tomatoes (Paul Robeson and Black Brandywine) were big but green.

More Summer Peach tomatoes.

My carrots--er, at least the tops--are growing nicely, so maybe I'll have some decent orange yumminess this year!

Finally, my Alpine strawberry plants seemed to like their home here in the garden bed next to the rhubarb, and a few garlic cloves that sprang up from last year.

Everything looks good, even though there hasn't been a huge harvest.  I figured I was safe going on vacation for a week!

Back to life,

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Sky Colors

When people leave our home, it's our habit to follow them outside to their car, or stand at the doorway or on the porch and wave until they're out of sight.  My "little sister" Dee and her family taught us this, and it's entrenched in our family customs.

On Monday night, after a wonderful visit for dinner and fellowship by Jake's Allie and her parents, we walked out to the front lawn with them as they got ready to leave.  But they didn't leave right away--the sky was lit up!

First, it was clouds tinged with blue from the evening sky.

Then, as the sun started setting, and the sky spotted with thunderstorm clouds--rain was arriving section by section--the clouds lit up, reflecting the colors of the sun.  Cell phone cameras--and my Bella (6D)--came out for picture time!  It was amazing to just stand and watch.

After the H. family drove away, Fernando and I stood out on the front lawn for a while, watching the storms roll through.  Most went either north or south of us, so we had a beautiful show of colors.

As I snapped a few more pictures, a car slowed, then stopped in front of our driveway.  The driver rolled down her passenger window just to say to me, "Isn't it beautiful?"  We chatted for a minute about the amazing skies, then she drove off.

As the sun set further, and clouds got darker, I took a few more pictures, stood in admiration for the Lord's creation, then walked back inside.

For who in the skies is comparable to the LORD?
Who among the sons of the mighty
is like the LORD?
Psalm 89:6 NASB

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

It's the Pits

I love avocados!

I usually slice around the skin of the avocado, twist it apart, then use my Pampered Chef avocado tool to gently dig out the pit.  The tool is also good for gently slicing the avocado while it's in its skin, and its slight curve is helpful in scooping out the good stuff.  But, in the end, it's an avocado tool and I haven't found any other uses for it.  And now I no longer need it.  My life is changed forever.  (Seriously, friends--why does anyone say that??  My life was changed forever when I surrendered it to Jesus Christ.  But I'm exercising a little sarcasm here, in honor of all those who share kitchen tips and "hacks" that.change our lives forever.)

Nonetheless (love using that word), I'm super excited to have learned this little trick, and even more excited to share it with you.  Although, you probably already know how to do this.  I'm always the last to know.

I excitedly shared this trick with my friend Becki a few days ago.  Turns out she's been doing this for forever, and even has funny stories about the pit falling onto the floor and rolling away.  I thought it was a new, amazing trick--am I the only one who didn't know how to remove an avocado pit??

I'm a picture gal, so I took a few to share.  Once you slice around the avocado and twist it open, you have to remove the pit.  Hold the pitted avocado half in one hand, then take your chef's knife with your other hand and whack it (not too hard, now) into the pit. 

I had to set the avocado down with the knife still in the pit so I could take a picture...

Twist gently, and the pit comes right out!

VoilĂ !  Beautiful, non-mangled avocado halves.  And one less (silly) kitchen tool for me.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Indpendence Day

Independence Day was beautiful and bright, sunny and not too hot (some years it has hit 100 degrees!).  Our family decided to go to our church's Independence Day celebration at the S. family's home, then on to see the Naperville fireworks.  This year, I wanted to make sure I got pictures of my own guys, then put the camera away to relax with my friends.  I spent a bit of time at the volleyball net, where Thomas, Joseph, and Fernando were playing.  (Jake spent the weekend with Allie and her family.)

Thomas sets the ball.

Thomas watches his dad bump.

Joseph watches his dad return the ball over the net.

Thomas is a pretty good jumper!

I caught the below shot of Danny with his friends--I can't think of a good caption, though!

Then it was on to the Naperville fireworks.  The Y. family went out really early to spread their blankets right across the street from where the city sets the fireworks off, so we all had an excellent view.  I walked the mile from the parking lot to the blankets in my flipflops, not thinking much about it until--I realized that the tripod mount for my camera was on the other camera.  And the other camera was in the car

Danny fast-walked with me all the way back to the car; he beat me there and unscrewed the tripod mount, then brought it to me as I was entering the parking lot--not quite a second mile.  Then we hightailed it back to the blankets--mile number three--where I decided to sit on the curb of the street so I could set up with a clear view.  Two very nice ladies allowed me to take up the bit of curb I needed to sit and shoot. 

The show started just as I was getting my camera situated, so I missed the first several fireworks.  But--praise the Lord--I was good to go after that, and got several great and interesting images.  I'm sharing just a few here, because I'm featuring them over on my website.

I kept the below image because even though  it was overexposed, it illuminated the action on the ground--the trucks, the flame, the smoke.

The finale!

Once the show was over, I could barely move my legs to walk the last mile back to the car.  That made four miles of exercise, in flipflops (at least they were the really nice arch-support ones!), on a holiday.  I thought there was a rule about not exercising on holidays, but relaxing and taking it easy.  Oh, well.  :)

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Monday, July 13, 2015

Garlic Scape Pesto

Nothing says HELLO SUMMER! like garlic scape pesto!  This beautifully green, aromatic pesto has an incredible taste of garlic, and is incredibly easy to make.  A food processor or blender works perfectly with this recipe.  Since I don't have a blender attachment for my Bosch Universal Mixer, my food processor attachment does the trick.

Above and below, you can see the scapes--the tops of the garlic plant, with their curly stem and bulb head which eventually flower.  And those flowers are a good thing--they contain the seeds for next year's garlic plants!

If you think about it--you have one garlic plant, which produces one flower head, with maybe 8-12 seeds on that head.  Do you know what this means?  You don't need all those seeds for next year's garlic crop, unless you want an incredibly huge crop, that is.  You can use some of the tops--the scapes--before they flower, to make this delicious pesto.

Make sure you choose young tops--there should still be plenty of curl, and the bulb portion should still be white, not like the bulb above which has already started to flower.  June is usually the best time to harvest the curly scapes.

Although this is early July, my garlic plants were numerous enough that I was able to find enough scapes to make pesto.

The first batch I tried making this year was with a recipe that called for 20 fresh basil leaves.  Okay, I thought, as I picked off 20 leaves...  Whoa, was it garlicky!  I fiddled with the recipe a bit and came up with my own version, which still preserves the garlic flavor while evening out the taste of the other ingredients.

We put it on pizza, and also made flatbread (or communion bread, recipe to come) and spread it on that.  Oh, yeah, that was amazing!  Here's my recipe.

Garlic Scape Pesto
Yield:  about two cups, but we were gobbling it up before I measured, so...

1 cup garlic scapes, rinsed
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves (I used Medinette basil)
1/4 cup nuts (I used pine once, and cashews another time--walnuts also work well)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup evoo (extra-virgin olive oil)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Place the garlic scapes and basil in a food processor; pulse several times to cut everything up.  Add the nuts and pulse a few more times.  Add salt and pepper and pulse again.  Scrape down sides of processor or blender as needed (I use a blender and do it often before adding the oil)  Add evoo in a thin, steady stream to this mixture while blending, until mixture is your desired consistency and oil is fully incorporated.  Empty into a bowl and stir in Parmesan cheese.

Hide this stuff before your family knows you made it!  Because let me tell you--my guys were all over it!  I'd tell you the pesto will last in your fridge in a Mason jar for a week or two, but it really won't because it gets eaten way before that.  I hope you planted lots of basil!

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Thursday, July 9, 2015

Early July in my Garden

Friday, July 3, and the beginning of Independence Day weekend, found me in my garden.  Of course, most summer mornings you'll find me in my garden, either walking the rows and checking everything out, or doing a little something here and there.

Here's the quick "before" image, though I was using Annie (camera #2) who didn't have the wide-angle lens on.

The strawberry plants are browning, which has been typical of them over the past several years.  I keep them watered, though, and weeded when needed.  Their strawberry production stopped abruptly at the end of June, but I had a huge harvest this year.

I garden barefoot.  :)

Time to assess the tomatoes.  Here are the four in Bed E (each bed has a letter corresponding to when we built them).  Two plants (in the front) are Summer Peach, and will yield sweet fuzzy yellow tomatoes; I planted these last year and loved them.  The two in the back are a new-to-me variety, Black Brandywine, and (obviously by the name) have a dark color.  I can't wait to try them!

These four are another heirloom variety, Paul Robeson (whoever he is...).  I loved them last year; they were a high yield plant with lots of juicy red medium-sized fruit.  The one plant on the left in the front in the below picture is dying--the leaves are spotted with black and starting to shrivel--and I'm not sure why.  There are some white flies around, but the other three plants are healthy.  I've never had a tomato plant die.

The three plants below are Early Girl, and though there are green tomatoes on them, they're not that early with their fruit.  We'll see how they grow as the days go by.

First, I fertilized all the tomato plants with an organic tomato fertilizer.  I forgot to fertilize in June, and whenever I do that, I go bonkers thinking I've ruined my crop for the year.  Yeah, I end up imagining the worst.  So, I'm trying to be mellow, since there are tons of yellow flowers on all the plants and except for the one dying Paul Robeson, everything seems healthy and thriving.

Below, you can see how tall the plants are getting.  These are indeterminate varieties, meaning they'll grow and grow and vine out and produce.  One trick I read about to halt the height of them is to snip off the tops, which I did today.  This also helps the plant focus its energy on producing fruit.  I'll let you now how it works out.

During my snipping and fertilizing, I heard a peck-peck-peck and a tap-tap-tap nearby.  I immediately knew what that was, and was happy to spot this female downy woodpecker looking for a snack in the partially dead tree on the other side of our back yard fence.

Back to work!  I checked one more time on my garlic; most of the scapes (those curly ends with the heads that will "flower") have matured too much for me to use them in cooking, but I found enough for one more recipe of garlic scape pesto.

Below, you can see one of the garlic scape heads starting to flower.  Once the stems of the garlic turn brown, I'll cut off these heads and save the largest ones, letting them dry in the sun, then breaking them apart into individual seeds.  I'll plant the seeds in late autumn this year for next year's garlic harvest.

Here's my small colander with the young garlic scapes I found for garlic scape pesto!

Once I finished these garden tasks, I watered everything.  I've been trying to work a little bit every day in the garden, so that my back doesn't get overworked and sore.  I'm still not as disciplined as I'd like--my schedule is all over the place this summer--but I'm working on it!

I grabbed Bella (camera #3) with the wide-angle lens to give you the final overview of the day's work, including my shadow.

Next up, garlic scape pesto!

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