Friday, November 28, 2008

Green Time Vs. Screen Time

To you this may look like a big pile of trash and logs....
and old rusty discarded things....

and really interesting finds and broken boards....
and nests made of Spanish moss and pecans.....

and a beautiful objet d' art with a verdigris patina found from a Katrina flooded dresser....

But it's really..... A secret place....just for kids....under 13....this isn't a pile of old's a ...

palace...just for kids...built by kids...with secret corridors and rooms. There are many of these palaces scattered about the landscape. This kids town has a dictator and a president as well as a secretary of state. The currency is pecans which has been hotly debated at town meetings between the dictator and the town folks. "Pecans shouldn't be currency! You can find them on the ground!" I suspect the dictator is trying to tighten his control over the president and the town folk.

This is another of the magnificent specimens of architecture found in the town. Notice the "solar power" roof. Very bright and airy. The bright blue "tile" work on the outside adds just a touch of the exotic. The white pavers along the walkway to the door really brings the eye to the welcoming entrance. Should we knock?

Oh she's home!!! Why, how are you? There is much to do in this kid town. Meals of acorns and "salad greens" to cook, armaments to make with trash can lid shields and stick swords. Even a gourmet restaurant that serves grapefruit from Maw Maw's tree...and for a few pecans more you can be fanned with ginger leaves. Anything you could wish for is found in this town.

Well the town folks are busy. They must call another town hall meeting to discuss the latest threat to their haven. A Grandpa who stands on the porch and announces loudly, "I'm going to burn that town down." As long as the warm weather holds, I think their town is safe from the fireplace, but if it turns cold, drastic measures may have to be taken!!! Town meeting everyone! Town meeting at the old table.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Getting Rid Of Weeds

There was a surprising frost last night. It was very light, but there none the less! The tent I constructed around my tomatoes did the trick. They are just fine.

Here is a view of my garden. Byron asked me what I wanted for Christmas. "New beds for my garden!", I automatically replied. So today he promised to begin working on them....we'll see. I know he'll get around to it eventually.

It looks really untidy right now, but I'm working on suppressing the weeds. I've been saving cardboard boxes and the bags that the chicken feed comes in. My children are so used to it that they automatically place cereal boxes or any other cardboard box by the front door when they are finished with them instead of depositing them in the trash.

This is the box Byron made for me to use as a cold frame. So far, I haven't found much use for a cold frame. The extreme humidity we have here in New Orleans promptly rotted the old window frame I was using to top it and the glass panes fell out. It's now a small raised bed in the center of the main path of my garden. Every little square foot of space can be used to grow something useful.
I place all the cardboard and paper bags I have saved on the paths of the garden. Next pine straw mulch will be place on top. This works really well in killing the grass and weeds. It then breaks down and forms wonderful soil.
This is the same method I used in my front garden. Look how well it's doing. There are very little weeds penetrating the layers, and those that do are very easy to pull up. I recommend this layering method. This works so much better than the typical black landscaping plastic, which is a pain, expensive and doesn't work very well.
Check out La Gringa's Blogicita. She has a really interesting way of recycling plastic bags.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Around The House and Garden

Even though it was in the low 40's last night, there is still much blooming. The Cassia tree is covered with bright yellow blossoms. Very beautiful.
Remember these little scrawny helpless things two months ago? Here they are now doing just fine. There are four females and two males.
Even in the cold there are two African Irises blooming. The lantana is still putting out a few half hearted blooms.

My tomatoes are loaded with fruit. I'm hoping to ripen them on the vine. I concocted this homemade green house tent in hopes of raising the temperature around them a bit.

My tomatoes did so much better this fall than they did in the summer. I'm going to try and get them in the ground a few weeks earlier than I did these. After 15 years of gardening, although half heartedly at times (I was raising babies.), you would think I would have this all figured out.
It's still a work in progress. Although I admit I love each and every minute of it. With each success I am encouraged more and more. Don't give up, right?
Here is another view of my tomato tent. There shouldn't be any frosts until December. I'll have to get some additional bricks or stepping stones to hold the plastic tightly closed then.
My salad mixes are coming up nicely. I really feel like everyone should grow their own lettuce. It is one of the most simple things to grow. You just pinch off the baby leaves as you need them and leave the plant to keep producing.
Here is one of the broccoli plants. They are just huge. I'm looking forward to seeing how large a head it produces.
This is one of my cabbages. They also are very large. I planted two heirloom varieties. Drumhead and Dutch Wakefield Early (I think).
I harvested my first lavender blossoms and they are extremely fragrant. As you can see I'm still picking Lima's. Although I believe the purple hulls are ready to pulled up, I still got a couple of pods from them.
Just thought you might like to see a pic of my neighbor's citrus trees. They are sagging with fruit. That's with loosing quite a bit to Gustav. My neighbor has the most wonderful fruit stand. I'll have to do a post on it soon.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

It's Finally Here!

Finally, Our long awaited church cookbook! Our church is selling this cookbook to help finish the last details on the restoration of our church after Hurricane Katrina.
I am so excited about it because it includes a free DVD with video footage and photos of the destruction of New Orleans and our Parish St. Bernard after Katrina. It's not just depressing pictures of destruction, it also includes pictures of the courage and rebuilding efforts of the local people. The DVD really turned out great!!! Everyone I know is getting one for Christmas!
I'm so excited!
Also the cover is an award winning painting by local artist Terri Borison. I believe there might be prints of it available. I'll find out and let you know.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Observations About Bread

Today I decided to make a variation of the Italian bread I made the other day. Instead of two loaves, I separated the dough into three pieces and braided it. Just to make it fancy. It's not that hard to spice up a simple life.

Having the ability to make my own bread is fun and satisfying. It's also more affordable than the artisan breads at specialty stores. This loaf of bread cost me approximately $1.50 to make. I used 1 tbsp of organic butter, water, 2 tblsps of yeast, sugar, salt, and 5 cups specialty flour. Purchasing this loaf in a store would cost $3.00 to $4.00. It might even be worth more in a store because it is larger than a store bought loaf.

Here is the bread before it was baked.
Here it is just out of the oven.

And here is a close up. It didn't last much longer after this! I ran out of sesame seeds to top it with so I skipped them. I really missed them. It's just not Italian bread to me without them!

When I first started making bread I:

agonized with a thermometer over the temperature of the liquids

agonized over the amount of yeast
agonized over the amount of flour

agonized over the correct texture when kneading

agonized....agonized...agonized......You get the picture.

I agonize no longer. After a while you just get the feel for it. I'm so glad I kept plugging along at it. I've refused to get a bread maker. I'm not replacing or purchasing any electrical appliances, unless I deem it worth it. So far I haven't replaced my toaster oven, coffee maker or my ice maker. But, I do use my Kitchen Aid stand mixer to knead the bread. Lord help me when that dies. I love that mixer. It'll be a hotly contested mental debate on my part. Practical Vs. Love.

The biggest key to ending the agony was ditching the thermometer. Which is another thing I love dearly. I have to get everything to the perfect temperature, still is important when making fudge or pralines, but not bread. I just feel the liquid with my finger. The temp is right when the liquid is very hot, but I can still leave my finger in. If it is too hot to leave my finger in, it is too hot! Most breads basically follow a variation of this:
2 cups of liquid (water, milk, butter or a mixture)

2 tsps salt

1 tblsp sugar

2 tblsps yeast

5 cups of flour

From what I have observed, the texture and look of the bread depends on what you do with it once it has been kneaded. The taste depends on the flour and the liquids you use.

I found this series on making bread by Nancy Today very interesting. I haven't tried her wooden bowl method, but I did leave out the salt like she said. I got some very strange looks from my girls. Seleste said with one eyebrow raised, "Um Mom....this bread tastes...well...kinda funny like a sponge." So I make sure I put the salt now.

If you have any bread making tips you want to share. Bring 'em on. I promise not to agonize.

Monday, November 17, 2008

An American Girl Party

Seleste wanted an "American Girl Party" for her birthday. Since I'm no party giver, I was reluctant. She hadn't really had a party since she was a baby, so I let her invite five friends over for a "Depression Era Kit Kittridge American Girl Party". Seleste has been in love with her Kit doll long before any movie came out. She told me once, "Momma, I feel like I was born in the wrong time."
She begs for "flour sack" dresses, and if I don't watch her close, she'll attempt to cook dinner herself. Once when she was about six or seven, we came into the kitchen and she was eating a fried egg. "Seleste, who fixed you a fried egg?" said me. "I did.", said Seleste. Who didn't even look up just kept calmly eating her snack.
Seleste only thought a homemade jelly roll would do, just like Kit. Maw Maw Rivero made that. Now let's scrounge around the house and see what decorations we can use. This bright table cloth, these lantern lights we bought a couple of years ago for Carmen's Hawaiian party, This old square table cloth with pom pom's will make a great "Birthday Girl Chair". Thanks a lot Maw Maw Rivero for bringing the horns. Let's use old fashioned favors like, paper fans, Chinese jump ropes, caramels and jelly beans.

Seleste delightfully and thankfully appreciates everything. In turn it makes it delightful to do anything for her.

The taste.

The noise.
The drama.

The little girls.
The presents.
In New Orleans how good a party was is judged by how much trash has to be removed later. This must have been a good party! Notice our depression era wrapping paper.
Chinese jump rope.
Then the dolls had a party.
Happy 10th Birthday Seleste!

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Winter's coming. So, what do you do with all that basil? I've dried some.
I think I'll cut most of it, and leave some to seed. Then I'll make.........
Hmmm....This is my first time making pesto. It seems to be turning out fine.
Then...I'm going to make Italian bread.
Here it is ready to go into the pre-heated oven. The sesame seeds and egg white glaze is added five minutes before the bread finishes.
Wow, That looks really pretty.
Up close. Making bread is really pretty easy. After making bread for quite a while, I'm getting the hang of it and can do it from memory. Now I can simply dip my finger in the liquids and tell if it is the right temperature. If I can't leave my finger in it, it is to hot. It has to be very warm, but not unbearable.
Now, serve the pesto over cooked pasta with shredded Italian cheeses. The bread was outta site. On Sunday's when Byron and I were first married (before kids), we would wake early for church and swing by Salvo's bakery and eat hot Italian bread with coffee on the way. That was the best Italian bread. Unfortunately, they retired and closed their business. Sigh.... But this bread, I believe, was just as delicious.
Pesto Recipe
1/4 cup of toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup of olive oil
3 garlic cloves
2 cups of packed fresh basil leaves
Put olive oil, pine nuts, and peeled garlic cloves in food processor. Chop. Add Basil leaves a little at a time until chopped. I chopped mine pretty fine. I've seen some pesto chopped more coarse. You can also chop everything by hand and mix.
Serve over cooked pasta with shredded Italian cheese.
Any remaining pesto can be kept in the fridge for a week, or frozen in individual portions. I've read that it freezes well, so I'm going to try that.